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Full text of "History of Alfred the Great : the founder of the British monarchy"

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Alfred the Great 



BY 

JACOB ABBOTT 

WITH ENGRAVINGS 




NEW YORK AND LONDON 
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 
1904 



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand 
eight hundred and forty-nine, by 

Harper & Brothers, 

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District 

of New York. 



Copyright, 1877, by Jacob Abbott. 



ILL 

PREFACE. 



It is the object of this series of histories to 
present a clear, distinct, and connected narra- 
tive of the lives of those great personages who 
have in various ages of the world made them- 
selves celebrated as leaders among mankind, 
and, by the part they have taken in the public 
affairs of great nations, have exerted the widest 
influence on the history of the human race. 
The end which the author has had in view is 
twofold : first, to communicate such informa- 
tion in respect to the subjects of his narratives 
as is important for the general reader to posesss ; 
and, secondly, to draw such moral lessons from 
the events described and the characters deline- 
ated as they may legitimately teach to the peo- 
ple of the present age. Though written in a 
direct and simple style, they are intended for, 
and addressed to, minds possessed of some con- 



viii Preface. 

siderable degree of maturity, for such minds 
only can fully appreciate the character and ac- 
tion which exhibits itself, as nearly all that is 
described in these volumes does, in close com- 
bination with the conduct and policy of govern- 
ments, and the great events of international 
history. 



CONTENTS. 



Chapter Pig* 

I. THE BRITONS 13 

II. THE ANGLO-SAXONS 34 

III. THE DANES 57 

iv. Alfred's early years 76 

V. THE STATE OF ENGLAND 94 

vi. Alfred's accession to the throne 115 

VII. REVERSES 131 

▼III. THE SECLUSION 154 

IX. REASSEMBLING OF THE ARMY 172 

X. THE VICTORY OVER THE DANES 190 

XI. THE REIGN . . 209 

XII. THE CLOSE OF LIFE 227 



ENGRAVINGS. 



Page 

WALL OP «KVKRUS 31 

SAXON MILITARY CHIEF 41 

THE SKA KINGS 65 

LOTHBROC AND HIS FALCON 103 

ANCIENT CORONATION CHAIR 133 

THE FIRST. BRITISH FLEET 148 

ALFRED WATCHING THE CAKES 161 

PORTRAIT OF ALFRED 208 

HASTINGS BESIEGED IN THE CHURCH 229 



ALFRED THE GREAT. 



Chapter I. 
The Britons. 



Alfred the founder of the British monarchy. 



\ LFRED THE GREAT figures in history 
£*- as the founder, in some sense, of the Brit- 
ish monarchy. Of that long succession of sov- 
ereigns who have held the scepter of that mon- 
archy, and whose government has exerted so 
vast an influenoe on the condition and welfare 
of mankind, he was not, indeed, actually the 
first. There were several lines of insignificant 
prinoes before him, who governed such portions 
of the kingdom as they individually possessed, 
more like semi-savage chieftains than English 
kings. Alfred followed these by the principle 
of hereditary right, and spent his life in laying 
broad and deep the foundations on which the 
enormous superstructure of the British empire 
has since been reared. If the tales respecting 
his character and deeds which have come down 



14 Alfred the Great. [B.C. 800 

Hereditary succession. The fabulous age of history 

to us are at all worthy of belief, he was an hon- 
est, conscientious, disinterested, and far-seeing 
statesman. If the system of hereditary suo- 
oession would always furnish such sovereigns 
for mankind, the principle of loyalty would have 
held its place much longer in tne world than it 
is now likely to do, and great nations, now re- 
publican, would have been saved a vast deal of 
trouble and toil expended in the election of theii 
rulers. 

Although the period of King Alfred's reign 
seems a very remote one as we look back to- 
ward it from the present day, it was still eight 
hundred years after the Christian era that he 
ascended his throne. Tolerable authentic his- 
tory of the British realm mounts up through 
these eight hundred years to the time of Juliu* 
Caesar. Beyond this the ground is covered by 
a series of romantic and fabulous tales, pretend- 
ing to be history, which extend back eight 
hundred years further to the days of Solomon ; 
•o that a much longer portion of the story of 
fchat extraordinary island comes before than 
smoe the days of Alfred. In respect, however 
to all that pertains to the interest and import 
ance of the narrative, the exploits and the a) 
tangements of Alfred are the beginning. 



B.C. 800.] The Britons. 15 

rradition. The Trojan war. AdTeotorea of JSneas 

The histories, in faot, of all nations, ancient 
and modern, run back always into misty regions 
of romance and fable. Before arts and letters 
irrived at such a state of progress as that pub 
iio events could be recorded in writing, tradi- 
tion was the only means of handing down the 
memory of events from generation to genera- 
tion ; and tradition, among semi-savages, chang- 
es every thing it touches into romantic and 
marvelous fiction. 

The stories connected with the earliest dis- 
covery and settlement of Great Britain afford 
very good illustrations of the nature of these 
fabulous tales. The following may serve as a 
speoimen : 

At the close of the Trojan war,* iEneas re- 
tired with a company of Trojans, who escaped 
from the city with him, and, after a great vari- 
ety of adventures, which Virgil has related, he 
landed and settled in Italy. Here, in process 
of time, he had a grandson named Silvins, who 
had a son named Brutus, Brutus being thu* 
iEneas's great-grandson. 

One day, while Brutus was hunting in the 
forests, he accidentally killed his father with 

* For some account of the circumstances connected witb 
dais war , see our history of Alexander, chapter ri- 



16 Alfred the Great. [B.C. 800 

Wandering* of Brutal- Singular treaty of peace 

an arrow. His father was at that time King 
of Alba — a region of Italy near the spot on 
which Rome was subsequently built — and the 
aooident brought Brutus under such suspicions, 
and exposed him to such dangers, that he fled 
from the country. After various wanderings 
he at last reached Greece, where he collected a 
number of Trojan followers, whom he found 
coaming about the country, and formed them 
into an army. With this half-savage force he 
attacked a king of the country named Pandra- 
sus. Brutus was successful in the war, and 
Pandrasus was taken prisoner. This compel- 
led Pandrasus to sue for peace, and peace was 
concluded on the following very extraordinary 
terms: 

Pandrasus was to give Brutus his daughte? 
Imogena for a wife, and a fleet of ships as her 
dowry. Brutus, on the other hand, was to take 
his wife and all his followers on board of his 
fleet, and sail away and seek a home in some 
other quarter of the globe. This plan of a mon- 
arches purchasing his own ransom and peace for 
his realm from a band of roaming robbers, by 
offering the leader of them his daughter for a 
wife, however strange to our ideas, was very 
characteristic of the times. Imogena must 



B.C. 800.] The Britons. 17 

Brutus lands on a deserted ialand. Response of the oracla 

have found it a hard alternative to choose be- 
tween such a husband and such a father 

Brutus, with his fleet and his bride, betook 
themselves to sea, and within a short time 
landed on a deserted island, where they found 
the ruins of a city. Here there was an ancient 
temple of Diana, and an image of the goddess, 
which image was endued with the power of ut- 
tering oracular responses to those who consult- 
ed it with proper ceremonies and forms. Bru- 
tus consulted this oracle on the question in 
what land he should find a place of final settle- 
ment. His address to it was in ancient verse, 
which some chronicler has turned into English 
rhyme as follows: 

" Goddess of shnde* and huntress, who at will 

Walk'st on the rolling sphere, and through the deep 
On thy third reign, the earth look now and tell 

What land, what seat of rest thou bidd'st me seek 7" 

To which the oracle returned the fo lowing 
\nswer : 

u Far to the west, in the ocean wide, 
Beyond the realm of Gaul a land there lies — 
Sea-girt it lies — where giants dwelt of old. 
Now void, it tits thy people; thither head 
Thy courHe ; there shalt thou find a lasting home.' 

It is scarcely necessary to say that this meant 

Britain. Brutus, following the directions which 

24—2 



18 Alfred the Great. [B.C. &0U 



Emtc* p*s*M foe Pillars of Hercules. He lands in Britain 

the oracle had given him, set sail from the isl- 
and, and proceeded to the westward through the 
Mediterranean Sea. He arrived at the Pillars 
of Hercules. This was the name by which the 
Flock of Gibraltar and the corresponding prom- 
ontory on the opposite coast, across the straits, 
were called in those days ; these cliffs having 
been built, according to ancient tales, by Her- 
cules, as monuments set up to mark the ex 
treme limits of his western wanderings. Bru- 
tus passed through the strait, and then, turning 
northward, coasted along the shores of Spain. 

At length, after enduring great privations 
and suffering, and encountering the extreme 
dangers to which their frail barks were neces- 
sarily exposed from the surges which roll in 
perpetually from the broad Atlantic Ocean upon 
the coast of Spain and into the Bay of Biscay 
they arrived safely on the shores of Britain. 
They landed and explored the interior. They 
found the island robed in the richest drapery of 
Sruitfulness and verdure, but it was unoccupied 
by any thing human. There were wild beasts 
roaming in the forests, and the remains of a 
race of giants in dens and caves — monsters as 
diverse from humanity as the wolves. Brutus 
and his followers attacked all these occupant." 



B.C.OOO.I The Britons. 19 



Giants and wild beasts. Situation and extent of Great Britain. 

of the land. They drove the wild beasts into 
the mountains of Scotland and Wales, and kill- 
ed the giants. The chief of them, whose name 
was (Jogmagog. was hurled by one of Brutus'i 
followers from the summit of one of the chalky 
olifis which bound the island into the sea. 

The island of Great Britain is in the latitude 
of Labrador, which on our side of the continent 
is the synonym for almost perpetual ice and 
snow ; still these wandering Trojans found it a 
region of inexhaustible verdure, fruitfulness, 
and beauty ; and as to its extent, though often, 
in modern times, called a little island, they 
found its green fields and luxuriant forests ex- 
tending very far and wide over the sea. A 
length of nearly six hundred miles would seem 
almost to merit the name of continent, and the 
dimensions of this detached outpost of the hab- 
itable surface of the earth would never have 
been deemed inconsiderable, had it not been 
that the people, by the greatness of their ex- 
ploits, of which the whole world has been the 
theater, have made the physical dimensions of 
their territory appear so small and insignificant 
in comparison. To Brutus and his companions 
the land appeared a world. It was nearly four 
hundred miles in breadth at the place where 



20 Alfred the Great. [B.C. 800 



Fertility and beauty of tie island Successors of Brutu* 



they landed, and, wandering northward, the\ 
found it extending, in almost undiminished 
beauty and fruitfulness, further than they had 
(he disposition to explore it. They might haw 
gone northward until the twilight scarcely dis- 
appeared in the summer nights, and have found 
the same verdure and beauty continuing to the 
end. There were broad and undulating plains 
in the southern regions of the island, and in the 
northern, green mountains and romantic glens ; 
but all, plains, valleys, and mountains, were fer- 
tile and beautiful, and teeming with abundant 
sustenance foi flocks, for herds, and for man. 

Brutus accordingly established himself upon 
die island with all his followers, and founded a 
Kingdom there, over which he reigned as the 
founder of a dynasty. Endless tales are told of 
the lives, and exploits, and quarrels of his suc- 
cessors down to the time of Caesar. Conflict- 
ing claimants arose continually to dispute with 
each other for the possession of power ; wars 
were made by one tribe upon another ; cities, 
as they were called — though probably, in fact, 
they were only rude collections of hovels — were 
built, fortresses were founded, and rivers were 
named from princes or princesses drowned in 
tbem, \n accidental journeys, or by the violence 



B.C. 800.) The Britons. 21 

rales and legends. The story of King Lear 

of rival claimants to their thrones. The pre- 
tended records contain a vast number of le- 
gends, of very little interest or value, as the 
roaler will readily admit when we tell him that 
tht famous story of King Lear is the most en- 
tertaining one in the whole collection. It is this : 

There was a king in the line named Lear. 
He founded the city now called Leicester. He 
had three daughters, whose names were Gonil- 
la, Regana, and Cordiella. Cordiella was her 
father's favorite child. He was, however, jeal- 
ous of the affections of them all, and one day 
he called them to him, and asked them for some 
assurance of their love. The two eldest re- 
SDonded by making the most extravagant prot- 
estations. They loved their father a thousand 
times better than their own souls. They could 
not express, they said, the ardor and strength 
of their attachment, and called Heaven and 
earth to witness that these protestations were 
sincere. 

Cordiella, all this time, stood meekly and si- 
lently by, and when her father asked her hew 
it was with her, she replied, "Father, my love 
toward you is as my duty bids. What can a 
father ask, or a daughter promise more ? They 
who pretend beyond this only flatter." 



22 Alfred the Great. [B C. 800 



Honest truth and empty professions Ingratitude of Lear's daughter* 

The king, who was old ami childish, was 
much pleased with the manifestation of love of- 
fered by Gonilla and Regana, and thought that 
the honest Cordiella was heartless and cold 
He treated her with greater and greater neg 
lect and finally decided to leave her without 
any portion whatever, while he divided hi? 
kingdom between the other two, having pre- 
viously married them to princes of high rank. 
Cordiella was, however, at last made choice of 
for a wife by a French prince, who, it seems, 
knew better than the old king how much more 
to be relied upon was unpretending and honest 
truth than empty and extravagant profession 
He married the portionless Cordiella, and took 
her with him to the Continent. 

The old king now having given up his king- 
dom to his eldest daughters, they managed, by 
artifice and maneuvering, to get every thing 
else away from him, so that he became wholly 
dependent upon them, and had to live with 
them by turns. This was not all ; for, at the 
instigation of their husbands, they put so many 
indignities and affronts upon him, that his life 
at length became an intolerable burden, and 
finally he was compelled to leave the realm al- 
together, and in his destitution and distress he 



A.D.ti3.) Thk Hkitons. 23 

Julius Cteear His conquest of Great BrltauL 

went for refuge and protection to his rejected 
daughter Cordiella. She received her fathe? 
with the greatest alacrity and affection. She 
raised an army to restore him to his rights, and 
went in person with him to England to assist 
him in recovering them. She was successful. 
The old king took possession of his throne again, 
and reigned in peace for the remainder of his 
days. The story is of itself nothing very re- 
markable, though Shakspeare has immortalized 
it by making it the subject of one of his trag- 
edies. 

Centuries passed away, and at length the 
great Julius Caesar, who was extending the 
Roman power in every direction, made his way 
across the Channel, and landed in England. 
The particulars of this invasion are described 
m our history of Julius Caesar. The Romans 
retained possession of the island, in a greater or 
less degree, for four hundred years. 

They did not, however, hold it in peace all 
this time. They became continually involved 
in difficulties and contests with the native Brit- 
ons, who could ill brook the oppressions of such 
merciless masters as Roman generals always 
proved in the provinces which they pretended 
t*> govern. One of the most formidable rebell- 



24 Alfred the Great. [A.L> 6;< . 

<4ueen Boadicea. Her person and char actei 

ions that the Romans had to encounter during 
their disturbed and troubled sway in Britain 
was led on by a woman. Her name was Boa- 
dicea. Boadicea, like almost all other heroines, 
was coarse and repulsive in appearance. She 
was tall and masculine in form. The tones of 
her voice were harsh, and she had the counte- 
nance of a savage. Her hair was yellow. It 
might have been beautiful if it had been neatly 
arranged, and had shaded a face which possess- 
ed the gentle expression that belongs properly 
to woman. It would then have been called 
golden. As it was, hanging loosely below her 
waist and streaming in the wind, it made the 
wearer only look the more frightful. Still, Bo- 
adicea was not by any means indifferent to the 
appearance she made in the eyes of beholders. 
She evinced her desire to make a favorable im- 
pression upon others, in her own peculiar way, 
it is true, but in one which must have been ef- 
fective, considering what sort of beholders they 
were in whose eyes she figured. She was 
dressed in a gaudy coat, wrought of various col- 
jrs, with a sort of mantle buttoned over it. She 
wore a great gold chain about her neok, and 
held an ornamented spear in her hand. Thus 
equipped, she appeared at the head of an army 



AD. 63.] The Britons. 2t 

Death of Boadieea. Final subjugation of the Britons. 

of a hundred thousand men, and gathering them 
around her, she ascended a mound of earth and 
harangued them — that is, as many as could 
stand within reach of her voice — arousing them 
to sentiments of revenge against their hated op- 
pressors, and urging them to the highest pitch 
of determination and courage for the approach- 
ing struggle. Boadieea had reason to deem the 
Romans her implacable foes. They had rubbed 
her of her treasures, deprived her of her king- 
dom, imprisoned her, scourged her, and inflict- 
ed the worst possible injuries upon her daugh- 
ters. These things had driven the wretched 
mother to a perfect phrensy of hate, and arous- 
ed her to this desperate struggle for redress and 
revenge. But all was in vain. In encounter- 
ing the spears of Roman soldiery, she was en- 
countering the very hardest and sharpest steel 
that a cruel world could furnish. Her army 
was conquered, and she killed herself by taking 
poison in her despair. 

By struggles such as these the contest be- 
tween the Romans and the Britons was carried 
on for many generations ; the Romans conquer 
ing at every trial, until, at length, the Britons 
learned to submit without further resistance to 
their sway. In fact, there gradually came upon 



2b Alfred the (treat. [A.D. 200 

The Picts and Scots. Their depredation* 

the stage, during the progress of these centu- 
ries, a new power, acting as an enemy to both 
the Picts and Scots ; hordes of lawless baroa- 
rians, who inhabited the mountains and mo- 
rasses of Scotland and Ireland. These terrible 
savages made continual irruptions into the 
southern country for plunder, burning and de- 
stroying, as they retired, whatever they could 
not carry away. They lived in impregnable 
and almost inaccessible fastnesses, among dark 
glens and precipitous mountains, and upon 
gloomy islands surrounded by iron-bound coasts 
and stormy seas. The Roman legions made 
repeated attempts to hunt them out of these re- 
treats, but with very little success. At length 
a line of fortified posts was established across 
the island, near where the boundary line now 
lies between England and Scotland ; and by 
guarding this line, the Roman generals who 
had charge of Britain attempted to protect the 
inhabitants of the southern country, who had 
learned at length to submit peaceably to theii 
sway. 

One of the most memorable events which oc- 
curred during the time that the Romans held 
possession of tne island of Britain was the visit 
•f one of the emperors to this northern extrem- 



A J). 206.] The Britons 27 

Visit of the Emperor Severus. His dissolute sons. 

ity of his dominions. The name of this em- 
peror was Severus. He was powerful and pros- 
perous at home, but his life was embittered by 
one great calamity, the dissolute character and 
the perpetual quarrels of his sons. To remove 
them from Rome, where they disgraced both 
themselves and their father by their vicious 
lives, and the ferocious rivalry and hatred they 
bore to each other, Severus planned an excur- 
sion to Britain, taking them with him, in the 
hope of turning their minds into new channels 
of thought, and awakening in them some new 
and nobler ambition. 

At the time when Severus undertook thif 
expedition, he was advanced in age and very 
infirm. He suffered much from the gout, so 
that he was unable to travel by any ordinary 
conveyance, and was borne, accordingly, almost 
all the way upon a litter. He crossed the Chan- 
nel with his army, and, leaving one of his sons 
in command in the south part of the island, he 
advanced with the other, at the head of an enor- 
mous force, determined to push boldly forward 
into the heart of Scotland, and to bring the war 
with the Picts and Scots to an effectual end. 

He met, however, with very partial success, 
His soldiers became er. tangled in bogs and mo- 



28 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 206 



Base conduct of Bassianus. His interview with his father 

rasses ; they fell into ambuscades ; they suffer- 
ed every degree of privation and hardship for 
want of water and of food, and were continuall) 
entrapped by their enemies in situations where 
they had to fight in small numbers and at a 
great disadvantage. Then, too, the aged and 
feeble general was kept in a continual fever of 
anxiety and trouble by Bassianus, the son whom 
he had brought with him to the north. The 
dissoluteness and violence of his character were 
not changed by the change of scene. He form- 
ed plots and conspiracies against his father's 
authority ; he raised mutinies in the army ; he 
headed riots ; and he was finally detected in a 
plan for actually assassinating his father. Se- 
verus, when he discovered this last enormity of 
wickedness, sent for his son to come to his im- 
perial tent. He laid a naked sword before him, 
and then, after bitterly reproaching him with 
his undutiful and ungrateful conduct, he said, 
" If you wish to kill me, do it now. Here I 
stand, old, infirm, and helpless. You are young 
and strong, and can do it easily. I am ready 
Strike the blow." 

Of course Bassianus shrunk from his father's 
reproaches, and went away without commit- 
ting the crime to which he was thus reproach- 



\JD.206.j The Britons. 29 

Pear« vr'th the Picta and Scots. The Wall of Severn* 



fully invited; but his character remained un- 
changed ; and this constant trouble, added to 
ail the other difficulties which Severus encoun- 
tered, prevented his accomplishing his object of 
thoroughly conquering his northern foes. He 
made a sort of peace with them, and retiring 
south to the line of fortified posts which had 
oeen previously established, he determined to 
make it a fixed and certain boundary by build- 
ing upon it a permanent wall. He put the 
whole force of his army upon the work, and in 
one or two years, as is said, he completed the 
structure. It is known in history as the Wall 
of Severus ; and so solid, substantial, and per- 
manent was the work, that the traces of it have 
not entirely disappeared to the present day. 

The wall extended across the island, from the 
mouth of the Tyne, on the German Ocean, to 
the Solway Frith — nearly seventy miles. It 
was twelve feet high, and eight feet wide. It 
was faced with substantial masonry on both 
sides, the intermediate space being likewise fill- 
ed in with stone. When it crossed bays or mo- 
r asses, piles were driven to serve as a founda- 
tion. Of course, such a wall as this, by itself, 
would be no defense. It was to be garrisoned 
by soldiers, being intended, in fact, only as a 



60 


Alfred the Or eat. 


[A.D.206 


Stations. 


Castles. Turrets. Ditch. 


Military road 



means to enable a smaller number of troops 
than would otherwise be necessary to guard the 
line. For these soldiers there were built great 
fortresses at intervals along the wall, wherever 
a situation was found favorable for such struct- 
dres. These were called stations. The sta- 
tions were occupied by garrisons of troops, and 
small towns of artificers and laborers soon 
sprung up around them. Between the stations, 
at smaller intervals, were other smaller fortress- 
es called castles, intended as places of defense, 
and rallying points in case of an attack, but not 
for garrisons of any considerable number of 
men. Then, between the castles, at smaller 
intervals still, were turrets, used as watch-tow- 
ers and posts for sentinels. Thus the whole 
line of the wall was every where defended by 
armed men. The whole number thus employ- 
ed in the defense of this extraordinary rampart 
was said to be ten thousand. There was a 
broad, deep, and continuous ditch on the north- 
ern side of the wall, to make the impediment 
still greater for the enemy, and a spacious and 
weli-constructed military road on the southern 
side, on which troops, stores, wagons, and hag- 
gage of every kind could be readily transported 
along the line, from one end to the other. 



A..D. 435.] The Britons. 33 



Decline of the Romaa empire. Distress of the Britons. 

The wall was a good defense as long as Ro- 
man soldiers remained to guard it. But in pro- 
cess of time — about two centuries after Seve- 
rus's day — the Roman empire itself began to 
decline, even in the very seat and center of its 
power ; and then, to preserve their own capital 
from destruction, the government were obliged 
to call their distant armies home. The wall 
was left to the Britons ; but they could not de- 
fend it. The Picts and Scots, finding out the 
change, renewed their assaults. They battered 
down the castles ; they made breaches here and 
there in the wall ; they built vessels, and, pass- 
ing round by sea across the mouth of the Sol 
way Frith and of the River Tyne, they renew- 
ed their old incursions for plunder and destruc- 
tion. The Britons, in extreme distress, sent 
again and again to recall the Romans to their 
aid, and they did, in fact, receive from them 
some occasional and temporary succor. At 
length, however, all hope of help from this 
quarter failed, and the Britons, finding then\ 
condition desperate, were compelled to resort to 
a desperate remedy, the nature of which wil 
be explained in the next chapter. 
24—3 



34 Alfred the (jreat. [A.D.449 

Constitutional and connate differences anions men. 



Chapter II. 
The Anglo-Saxons 

ANY one who will look around upon the 
families of his acquaintance will observe 
that family characteristics and resemblances 
prevail not only in respect to stature, form, ex- 
pression of countenance, and other outward and 
bodily tokens, but also in regard to the consti- 
tutional temperaments and capacities of the 
soul. Sometimes we find a group in which 
high intellectual powers and great energy of 
action prevail for many successive generations, 
and in all the branches into which the original 
stock divides ; in other cases, the hereditary 
tendency is to gentleness and harmlessness of 
character, with a full development of all the 
feelings and sensibilities of the soul. Others, 
again, exhibit congenital tendencies to great 
physical strength and hardihood, and to powers 
of muscular exertion and endurance. These 
differences, notwithstanding all the exceptions 
and irregularities connected with them, aro ob- 
viously, where thev exist, deeply seated and 



AD. 449] The Anglo-Saxons. 35 

Characteristics of nations. Five great race* 

permanent. Thsy depend very slightly upon 
any mere external causes. They have, on the 
contrary, their foundation in some hidden prin- 
ciples connected with the origin of life, and 
with the mode of its transmission from parent 
to offspring, which the researches of philoso- 
phers have never yet been able to explore. 

These same constitutional and congenital pe- 
culiarities which we see developing themselves 
all around us in families, mark, on a greater 
scale, the characteristics of the different nations 
of the earth, and in a degree much higher still, 
the several great and distinct races into which 
the whole human family seems to be divided. 
Physiologists consider that there are five of 
these great races, whose characteristics, mental 
as well as bodily, are distinctly, strongly, and 
permanently marked. These characteristics 
descend by hereditary succession from father to 
son, and though education and outward influ- 
ences may modify them, they can not essen- 
tially change them. Compare, for example, the 
Indian and the African races, each of which ht« 
occupied for a thousand years a continent of 
its own, where they have been exposed to the 
game variety of climates, and as far as possible 
to the same general outward influences. Hot* 



36 Alfred the Great. [A.D.449 



Differences of race*. The Caucasian*. 

entirely diverse from oaeh other they are, not 
only in form, color, and other physical marks, 
but in all the tendencies and characteristics of 
the soul ! One can no more be changed int< 
the other, than a wolf, by being tamed and do- 
mesticated, can be made a dog, or a dog, by 
being driven into the forests, be transformed 
into a tiger. The difference is still greater be- 
tween either of these races and the Caucasian 
race. This race might probably be called the 
European race, were ii not that some Asiatic 
and some African nations have sprung from it, 
as the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, 
the Carthaginians, and, in modern times, the 
Turks. All the nations of this race, whether 
Ruropean or African, have been distinguished 
by the same physical marks in the conformation 
of the head and the color of the skin, and still 
more by those traits of character — the intellect, 
the energy, the spirit of determination and pride 
— which, far from owing their existence to out- 
ward circumstances, have always, in all ages, 
made all outward circumstances bend to there 
Tnat there have been some great and noble spec- 
imens of humanity among the African rase, foi 
example, no one can deny ; but that there is a 
marked, and fixed, and permanent constitution- 



A.D. 44y.| The Aholo-Saxons. 3? 



Civilization of the Caucasians. Their permanency 

al difference between them and the Caucasian 
raee seems evident from this fact, that for two 
thousand years each has held its own continent, 
nndisturbed, in a great degree, by the rest of 
mankind ; and while, during all this time, no 
nation of the one race has risen, so far as is 
known, above the very lowest stage of civiliza- 
tion, there have been more than fifty entirely 
distinct and independent civilizations origina- 
ted and fully developed in the other. For three 
thousand years the Caucasian race have con- 
tinued, under all circumstances, and in every 
variety of situation, to exhibit the same traits 
and the same indomitable prowess. No calam; 
ties, however great — no desolating wars, no de- 
structive pestilence, no wasting famine, no night 
of darkness, however universal and gloomy — 
has ever been ab.e to keep them long in degra- 
dation or barbarism. There is not now a bar- 
barous people to be found in the whole race, and 
there has not been one for a thousand years. 

Nearly all the great exploits, and achieve- 
ments too, which have signalized the history of 
the world, have been performed by this branch 
of the human family. They have given celeb- 
rity to every age in which they have lived, and 
to every country that they have ever possessed, 



38 Alfiied the Grem. [A.D.449 

Achievement* of the Caucasians. Ancient and modern Caucasians 



by some great deed, or discovery, or achieve- 
ment, which their intellectual energies have ac- 
complished. As Egyptians, they built the Pyr 
ftmids, and reared enormous monoliths, which 
remain as perfect now as they were when first 
completed, thirty centuries ago. As Phoeni- 
cians, they constructed ships, perfected naviga- 
tion, and explored, without compass or chart, 
every known sea. As Greeks, they modeled 
architectural embellishments, and cut sculpt- 
ures in marble, and wrote poems and history, 
which have been ever since the admiration of 
the world. As Romans, they carried a com- 
plete and perfect military organization over fifty 
nations and a hundred millions of people, with 
one supreme mistress over all, the ruins of 
whose splendid palaces and monuments have 
not yet passed away. Thus has this race gone 
on, always distinguishing itself, by energy, ac- 
tivity, and intellectual power, wherever it has 
dwelt, whatever language it has spoken, and in 
whatever period of the world it has lived. It 
has invented printing, and filled every country 
that it occupies with permanent records of the 
past, accessible to all. It has explored the 
heavens, and reduced to precise and exact cal- 
culations all the complicated motions there. It 



A..D.449.] The Anglo-Saxons. oii 

Subordinate differences. How accounted for 

has ransacked the earth, systematized, arrang- 
ed, and classified the vast melange of plants, 
and animals, and mineral products to be found 
upon its surface. It makes steam and falling 
water do more than half the work necessary for 
feeding and clothing the human race ; and the 
howling winds of the ocean, the very emblems 
of resistless destruction and terror, it steadily 
employs in interchanging the products of the 
world, and bearing the means of comfort and 
plenty to every clime. 

The Caucasian race has thus, in all ages, 
and in all the varieties of condition in which 
the different branches of it have been placed, 
evinced the same great characteristics, mark- 
ing the existence of some innate and constant 
constitutional superiority ; and yet, in the dif- 
ferent branches, subordinate differences appear, 
which are to be accounted for, perhaps, partly 
by difference of circumstances, and partly, per- 
haps, by similar constitutional diversities — di 
versities by which one branch is distinguished 
r Tom other branches, as the whole race is from 
the ether races with which we have compared 
them. Among these branches, we, Anglo-Sax 
ons ourselves, claim for the Anglo-Saxons tbfl 
■uperiority over *\11 the others 



40 Alfred the Great. [A.D.449 

The ADglo-Saxona. Their early qualitie* 

The Anglo-Saxons commenced their careei 
as pirates and robbers, and as pirates and rob- 
bers of the most desperate and dangerous de- 
scription. In fact, the character which the An- 
glo-Saxons have obtained in modern times Tor 
energy and enterprise, and for desperate daring 
in their conflicts with foes, is no recent fame 
The progenitors of the present race were cele- 
brated every where, and every where feared 
and dreaded, not only in the days of Alfred, but 
several centuries before. All the historians of 
those days that speak of them at all, describe 
them as universallv distinguished above their 
neighbors for their energy and vehemence of 
character, their mental and physical superior- 
ity, and for the wild and daring expeditions to 
which their spirit of enterprise and activity were 
continually impelling them. They built ves- 
sels, in which they boldly put forth on the wa- 
ters of the German Ocean or of the Baltic Sea 
an excursions for conquest or plunder. Like 
their present posterity on the British isles and 
on the shores of the Atlantic, they cared not, in 
these voyages, whether it was summer or win 
ter, calm or storm. In fact, they sailed often 
in tempests and storms by choice, so as to some 
apon their enemies the more unexpectedly 




Saxon Military Chiff 



\D.449.] The Anglo-Saxons, 43 



C«r rage and enterprise of the Anglo-Saxons. Their nautical exploit*. 

They would build small vessels, or rather boats, 
of osiers, covering them with skins, and in 
fleets of these frail floats they would sally forth 
among the howling winds and foaming surges 
of the German Ocean. On these expeditions, 
they all embarked as in a common cause, and 
felt a common interest. The leaders shared in 
all the toils and exposures of the men, and the 
men took part in the counsels and plans of the 
leaders. Their intelligence and activity, and 
their resistless courage and ardor, combined 
with their cool and calculating sagacity, made 
them successful in every attempt. If they 
fought, they conquered ; if they pursMed their 
enemies, they were sure to overtake them ; if 
they retreated, they were sure to make their 
escape. They were clothed in a loose and flow- 
ing dress, and wore their hair long and hang- 
ing about their shoulders : and they had the 
art, as their descendants have now, of contriv- 
ing and fabricating arms of such superior con- 
struction and workmanship, as to give them, 
on this account alone, a great advantage ovei 
all ootemporary nations. There were two other 
points in which there was a remarkable simi- 
larity between this parent stock in its rude, ear- 
v form, and the extended social progeny which 



44 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 449 

Conjugal fidelity. Pride and love of power 

represents it at the present day. One was the 
extreme strictness* of their ideas of conjugal 
fidelity, and the stern ana rigid severity with 
which ail violations 01 femalb virtue were judg- 
ed. The woman who violated her marriage 
vows was compelled to nang herself. Her body 
was then burned in public, and the accomplice 
of her crime was executed over the ashes. The 
other point of resemblance between the ancient 
Anglo-Saxons and their modern descendants 
was their indomitable pride. They could never 
endure any thing like submission. Though 
sometimes overpowered, they were never con- 
quered. Though taken prisoners and carrier 
captive, the indomitable soirit which animatea 
them could never oe reaPv subdued. The Ro- 
mans used sometimes to compel their prisoners 
to fight as gladiators, to maKe spectacles for 
the amusement of the people of the city. On 
one occasion, thirty Anglo - Saxons, who had 
been taken captive and were reserved for this 
fate, strangled themselves rather than submit 
to this indignity. The whole nation manifest- 
ed on all occasions a very unbending and un- 
submissive will, encountering every possible 
danger and braving every conceivaMe ill rath- 
er than succumb or submit to any power ex* 



A.D.449.J The Anglo-Saxons. 45 

Landing of the Anglo-Saxons. Commencement of English history 



cept such as they had themselves created foi 
their own ends ; and their descendants, whetr: 
er m England or America, evince much the 
game spirit still. 

It was the landing of a few boat-loads of these 
determined and ferocious barbarians on a small 
island near the mouth of the Thames, which 
constitutes the great event of the arrival of the 
Anglo-Saxons in England, which is so celebrat- 
ed in English history as the epoch which marks 
the real and true beginning of British great- 
ness and power. It is true that the history of 
England goes back beyond this period to nar- 
rate, as we have done, the events connected 
with the contests of the Romans and the abo- 
riginal Britons, and the incursions and maraud* 
mgs of the Picts and Scots ; but all these abo- 
rigines passed gradually — after the arrival of 
the Anglo-Saxons — off the stage. The old 
stock was wholly displaced. The present mon- 
archy has sprung entirely from its Anglo-Saxon 
original ; so that ail which precedes the arrival 
oi this new race is introductory and preliminary, 
like the history, in this country, of the native 
American tribes before the coming of the En- 
glish Pilgrims. As, therefore, the landing of 
the Pilgrims on the Plymouth Rock marks the 



46 Alfred the Great. [A.D.41b 

The three ships. Number of adventurers. 

true commencement of the history of the Amer- 
ican Republic, so * f , of the Anglo-Saxon ad- 
venturers on the island of Thanet represents 
and marks the origin of the British monarchy. 
The event, therefore, stands as a great and 
conspicuous landmark, though now dim and 
distant in the remote antiquity in which it oc- 
curred. 

And yet the event, though so wide-reaching 
and grand in its bearings and relations, and in 
the vast consequences which have flowed and 
which still continue to flow from it, was appa- 
rently a minute and unimportant circumstance 
at the time when it occurred. There were only 
three vessels at the first arrival. Of their size 
and character the accounts vary. Some of 
these accounts say they contained three hund- 
red men ; others seem to state that the number 
which arrived at the first landing was thre* 
thousand. This, however, would seem impos- 
sible, as no three vessels built in those days 
could convey so large a number. We must 
suppose, therefore, that that number is meant 
to include those who came at several of the ear 
lier expeditions, and which were grouped by 
the historiai together, or else that several other 
"essels or transports accompanied the thiee, 



A..D.449.] The Anglo-Saxons, 4? 



Vessels of the Anglo-Saxons. Hengist and Horsa 

which history has speoially commemorated as 
the first arriving. 

In fact, very little can now be known in re- 
spect to the form and capacity of the vessels in 
which these half-barbarous navigators roamed, 
in those days, over the British seas. Theii 
name, indeed, has come down to us, and tha* 
is nearly all. They were called cyules; though 
the name is sometimes spelled, in the ancient 
chronicles, ceols, and in other ways. They 
were obviously vessels of considerable capacity 
and were of such construction and such strength 
as to stand the roughest marine exposures 
They were accustomed to brave fearlessly ev- 
ery commotion and to encounter every danger 
raised either by winter tempests or summer 
gales in the restless waters of the German 
Ocean. 

The names of the commanders who headed 
the expedition which first landed have been pre- 
served, and they have acquired, as might have 
been expected, a very wide celebrity. They 
were Hengist and Horsa. Hengist and Horsa 
were brothers. 

The place where they landed was the island 
of Thanet. Thanet is a tract of land at the 
mouth of the Thames, on the southern *ide ; a 



48 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 449 

The place of landing. The island of Thanet 

sort of promontory extending into the sea, and 
forming the cape at the south side of the estu- 
ary made by the mouth af the river. The ex. 
treme point of land is called the North Fore- 
land which, as it is the point that thousands of 
vessels, coming out of the Thames, have to 
round in proceeding southward on voyages to 
France, to the Mediterranean, to the Indies, 
and to America, is very familiarly known to 
navigators throughout the world. The island 
of Thanet, of which this North Foi eland is the 
extreme point, ought scarcely to be called an 
island, since it forms, in fact, a portion of the 
main land, being separated from it only by a 
narrow creek or stream, which in former ages 
indeed, was wide and navigable, but is now 
nearly choked up and obliterated by the sands 
and the sediment, which, after being brought 
down by the Thames, are driven into the creek 
by the surges of the sea. 

In the time of Hengist and Horsa the creek 
was so considerable that its mouth furnished a 
Mifficient harbor for their vessels. They landod 
at a town called Ebbs-fleet, which is now, how 
ever, at some distance inland. 

There is some uncertainty in respect to the 
motive which led Hengist and Hursa to make 



A.D 449.] The Anglo-Saxc w». 49 

Objects of Hengigt and Horsa. Vortigern. 

their first descent upon the English coast. 
Whether they came on one of their customary 
piratical expeditions, or were driven on the 
coast accidentally by stress of weather, or were 
invited to come by the British king, can not 
now be accurately ascertained. Such parties 
of Anglo-Saxons had undoubtedly often landed 
before under somewhat similar circumstances 
and then, after brief incursions into the interio- 
had re-embarked on board their ships and sailed 
away. In this case, however, there was a cer- 
tain peculiar «nd extraordinary state of things 
in the political condition of the country in which 
they had landed, which resulted in first protract- 
ing their stay, and finally in establishing them 
so fixedly and permanently in the land, that 
they and their followers and descendants soon 
became the entire masters of it, and have re- 
mained in possession to the present day. These 
oircumstances were as follows : 

The name of the king of Britain at this peri- 
♦Ki was Vortigern. At the time when the An- 
glo-Saxons arrrred, he and his government were 
nearly overwhelmed with the pressure of diffi- 
culty and danger arising from the incursions of 
the Picts and Scots ; and Vortigern, instead of 

being aroused to redoubled vigilance and energy 
24—4 



50 Alfred the Great. [A.D.449 



Character of Vortigern. He seeks the assistance of tte Anglo-Saxon* 

by the imminence of the danger, as Alfred aft- 
erward was in similar circumstances, sank 
down, as weak minds always do, in despair, 
and gave himself up to dissipation and vice — 
endeavoring, like depraved seamen on a wreck, 
tc drown his mental distress in animal sensa- 
tions. of pleasure. Such men are ready to seek 
relief or rescue from their danger from any 
quarter and at any price. Vortigern, instead 
of looking upon the Anglo-Saxon intruders as 
new enemies, conceived the idea of appealing 
to them for succor. He offered to convey to 
ihsm a large tract of territory in the part of the 
island where they had landed, on condition of 
their aiding him in his contests with his other 
foes. 

Hengist and Horsa acceded to this proposal. 
They marched their followers into battle, and 
defeated Vortigern's enemies. They sent across 
the sea to their native land, and invited new ad- 
venturers to join them. Vortigern was greatly 
pleased with the success of his expedient. The 
Picts and Scots were driven back to their fast- 
nesses in the remote mountains of the north, 
and the Britons once more possessed their land 
in peace, by means of the protection and the 
aid which their new confederates afforded them 



A.D.449.] The Anglo-Saxons 51 

Increase of the Anglo-Saxons. Story of Rowena 



In the mean time the Anglo-Saxons were 
establishing and strengthening themselves ver^ 
rapidly in the part of the island which Vorti- 
gern had assigned them — which was, as the 
reader will understand from what has already 
been said in respect to the place of their land- 
ing, the southeastern part — a region which now 
constitutes the county of Kent. In addition, 
too, to the natural increase of their power from 
the increase of their numbers and their military 
force, Hengist contrived, if the story is true, to 
swell his own personal influence by means of a 
matrimonial alliance which he had the adroit- 
ness to effect. He had a daughter named Row- 
ena. She was very beautiful and accomplish- 
edT" Hengist sent for her to come to England 
When she had arrived he made a sumptuous 
entertainment for King Vortigern, inviting also 
to it, of course, many other distinguished 
guests. In the midst of the feast, when the 
king was in the state of high excitement pro- 
duced on such temperaments by wine and con 
vivial pleasure, Rowena came in to offer him 
more wine. Vortigern was powerfully struck, 
as Hengist had anticipated, with her grace and 
beauty. Learning that she was Hengist's 
daughter, he demanded her hand. Hengist at 



r>2 Alfred the Great. [A.D.449 

Power of Hengist and Horsa. I-onf content* 

first declined, but, after sufficiently stimulating 
the monarch's eagerness by his pretended oppo- 
sition, he yielded, and the king b ecame the gen- 
eral's son-in-iaw. This is the story which some 
of the old chroniclers tell. Modern historians 
are divided in respect to believing it. Some 
think it is fact, others fable. 

At all events, the power of Hengist and Hor- 
sa gradually increased, as years passed on, until 
the Britons began to be alarmed at their grow- 
ing strength and multiplying numbers, and to 
fear lest these new friends should prove, in the 
end, more formidable than the terrible enemies 
whom they had come to expel. Contentions 
and then open quarrels began to occur, and at 
length both parties prepared for war. The con- 
test which soon ensued was a terrible struggle. 
or rather series of struggles, which continued 
for two centuries, during which the Anglo-Sax- 
ons were continually gaining ground and the 
Britons losing; the mental and physica. supe- 
riority of the Anglo-Saxon race giving ti.em 
with very few exceptions, every where and al 
ways the victory. 

There were, occasionally, intervals of peace, 
and partial and temporary friendliness. They 
accuse Hengist of great treachery on one of 



A.D. 530.] The Anglo-Saxons. 53 



Hengist accused of treachery. Exploits of King Arthur 

these occasions. He invited his son-in-law, 
King Vortigern, to a feast, with three hundred 
of his officers, and then fomenting a quarrel at 
the entertainment, the Britons were aHkiUfid- 
in the affray by means of the superior Saxon 
force which had been provided for the emer- 
gency. Vortigern himself was taken prisoner, 
and held a captive until he ransomed himself 
by ceding three whole provinces to his captor. 
Hengist justified this demand by throwing the 
responsibility of the feud upon his guests ; and 
it is not, in fact, at all improbable that the^ 
deserved their share of the condemnation. 

The famous King Arthur, whose Knights of 
the Round TableTIave oeen so celebrated it 
ballads and tales, lived and flourished during 
these wars between the Saxons and the Britons. 
He was a king of the Britons, and performed 
wonderful exploits of strength and valor. He 
was of prodigious size and muscular pow^r, and 
of undaunted bravery. He slew giants, de- 
stroyed the most ferocious wild beasts, gained 
very splendid victories in the battles that he 
fought, made long expeditions into foreign coun- 
tries, having .once gone on a pilgrimage to Je- 
rusalem to obtain the Holy Cross. His_wife 
was a beautiful lady, the daughter of a chieftain 



54 Alfred the Great. !" A.D. 530 

Death of Arthur. His contests with the Saxon* 

of Cocnwall. Her name was Guenever.* On 
his return from one of his distant expeditions. 
he found that his nephew > Medrawd, had won 
nor affections while he was gone, and a combat 
ensued in consequence between him and Me 
drawd. The combat took place on the c oast of 
Cornwall. Both parties fell. Arthur was mor 
tally wounded. They took him from the field 
into a boat, and carried him along the coast till 
they came to a river. They ascended the river 
till they came to the town of Glastonbury. 
They committed the still breathing body to the 
care of faithful friends there ; but the mortal 
blow had been given. The great hero died, and 
they buried his body in the Glastonbury church- 
yard, very deep beneath the surface of the 
ground, in order to place it as effectually as 
possible beyond the reach of Saxon rage and 
vengeance. Arthur had been a deadly and im- 
placable foe to the Saxons. He had fought 
twelve great pitched battles with them, in every 
one of which he had gained the victor) In one 
of these battles he had slain, according to ta« 
traditional tale, four hundred and seventy men, 
in one day, with his own hand. 

Five hundred years after his death, King 

• Spelled sometimes Gwenlyfar and Ginevra 



A.D.530.] The Anglo-Saxons. 55 



King Arthur's grave. Disinterment of his body 

Henry the Second, having heard from an an- 
cient British bard that Arthur's body lay inter- 
red in the Abbey of Glastonbury, and that the 
spot was marked by some small pyramids erect- 
ed near it, and that the body would be found in 
a rude coffin made of a hollowed oak, ordered 
search to be made. The ballads and tales 
which had been then, for several centuries, cir- 
culating throughout England, narrating and 
praising King Arthur's exploits, had given him 
so wide a fame, that great interest was felt in 
the recovery and the identification of his re- 
mains. The searchers found the pyramids in 
the cemetery of the abbey. They dug between 
them, and came at leng£liJ&_a stone. Beneath 
this stone was a leaden cross, with the inscrip- 
tion in Latin, " Here lies buried the body of 
great King Arthur." Going down still below 
this, they came at length, at the depth of six- 
teen feet from the surface, to a great coffin, 
made of the trunk of an oak tree, and within it 
was a human skeleton of unusual size. The 
skull was very large, and showed marks of. ten 
wounds., Nine of them were closed by concre- 
tions of the bone, indicating that the wounds by 
which those contusions or fracture? had been 
made had been healed while life continued 



D6 Alfred the Great. [A.D 530 

Bones of Arthur's wife. Historic doubt* 

The tenth fracture remained in a condition 
which showed that that had been the mortal 
•vound. 

The bones of Arthur's wife were found near 
those of her husband. The hair was apparent- 
ly perfect when found, having all the freshness 
and beauty of life ; but a monk of the abbey, 
who was present at the disinterment, touched 
it and it crumbled to dust. 

Such are the tales which the old chronicles 
tell of the good King Arthur, the last and great- 
est representative of the power of the ancient 
British aborigines. It is a curious illustration 
of the uncertainty which attends all the early 
records of national history, that, notwithstand- 
ing all the above particularity respecting the 
ife and death of Arthur, it is a serious matter 
i>f dispute among the learned in modern times 
whether any such person ever lived. 



A.D. 450-b50.j The Danes. 5? 

final subjugation of the Briton*. The Saxon Heptarcfcf 



Chapter III. 

The Danes. 

nnHE landing of Hengist and Horsa, the first 
-*- of the Anglo-Saxons, took place in the year 
449, according to the commonly received chro- 
nology. It was more than two hundred years 
after this before the Britons were entirely sub- 
dued, and the Saxon authority established 
throughout the island, unquestioned and su- 
preme. One or two centuries more passed 
away, and then the Anglo-Saxons had, in their 
turn, to resist a new horde of invaders, who 
came, as they themselves had done, across the 
German Ocean. These new invaders were the 
Danes. 

The Saxons were not united under one gen- 
eral government when they came finally to get 
settled in their civil polity. The English ter- 
ritory was divided, on the contrary, into seven 
or eight separate kingdoms. These kingdoms 
were ruled by as many separate dynasties, or 
lines of kings. They were connected with each 
other by friendly relations and alliances, more 



OS Alfred the Great. [A.D. 450-^50. 

Boldness and energy of the Saxcns. Story of a Saxon princes* 

or less intimate, the whole system being known 
in history by the name of the Saxon Heptarchy 

The princes of these various dynasties show- 
ed in their dealings with one another, and in 
their relations with foreign powers, the same 
characteristics of boldness and energy as had 
always marked the action of the race. Even 
the queens and princesses evinced, by their 
courage and decision, that Anglo-Saxon blood 
lost nothing of its inherent qualities by flowing 
in female veins. 

For example, a very extraordinary story is 
told of one of these Saxon princesses. A cer- 
tain king upon the Continent, whose dominions 
lay between the Rhine and the German Ocean, 
had proposed for her hand in behalf of his son, 
whose name was Radiger. The consent of the 
princess was given, and the contract closed. 
The king himself soon afterward died, but be- 
fore he died he changed his mind in respect to 
the marriage of his son. It seems that he had 
himself married a second wife, the daughter of 
a king of the Franks, a powerful continental 
people ; and as, in consequence of his own ap- 
proaching death, his son would come unexpect- 
edly into possession of the throne, and would 
need immediately all the support which a pow< 



AD. 450-850.] The Danes. 59 

Faithlessness of Radiger. Indignation of the princess 

erful alliance could give him, he recommended 
to him to give up the Saxon princess, and con- 
nect himself, instead, with the Franks, as he 
himself had done. The prince entered into 
these views ; his father died, and he immedi- 
ately afterward married his father's youthful 
widow — his own step-mother — a union which, 
however monstrous it would be regarded in our 
day, seems not to have been considered any 
thing very extraordinary then. 

The Anglo-Saxon princess was very indig- 
nant at this violation of his plighted faith on 
the part of her suitor. She raised an army and 
equipped a fleet, and set sail with the force 
which she had thus assembled across the Ger- 
man Ocean, to call the faithless Radiger to ac- 
count. Her fleet entered the mouth of the 
Rhine, and her troops landed, herself at the 
head of them. She then divided her army into 
two portions, keeping one division as a guard 
for herself at her own encampment, which ?b^ 
established near the place of her landing, while 
she sent the other portion to seek and attack 
Radiger, who was, in the mean time, assem- 
bling his forces, in a state of great alarm at this 
sudden and unexpected danger. 

In due time this division returned, reporting 



HO Alfred the Great. [A.D. 450--850 

Radiger a prisoner. lie marries the prioceee, 

that they had met and encountered Radiger, 
and had entirely defeated him. They came 
back triumphing in their victory, considering 
evidently, that the faithless lover had been well 
punished for his offense. The princess, how* 
ever, instead of sharing in their satisfaction, 
ordered them to make a new incursion into the 
interior, and not to return without bringing 
Radiger with them as their prisoner. They 
did so ; and after hunting the defeated and dis- 
tressed king from place to place, they succeed- 
ed, at last, in seizing him in a wood, and 
brought him in to the princess's encampment 
He began to plead for his life, and to make ex- 
cuses for the violation of his contract by urging 
the necessities of his situation and his father's 
dying commands. The princess said she was 
ready to forgive him if he would now dismiss 
her rival and fulfill his obligations to her. Rad- 
iger yielded to this demand; he repudiated hi* 
Frank wife, and married the Anglo-Saxon Jad\ 
in her stead. 

Though the Anglo-Saxon race continued thu* 
to evince in all their transactions the same ex- 
traordinary spirit and energy, and met gener- 
ally with the same success that had character- 
ized them at the beginning, they seemed a< 



A.D. 450-850.] The Danes. 61 

The Danes. Their habits and character 

length to find their equals in the Danes. These 
Danes, however, though generally designated 
by that appellation in history, were not exclu- 
sively the natives of Denmark. They came 
from all the shores of the Northern and Baltic 
Seas. In fact, they inhabited the sea rathei 
r ,han the land. They were a race of bold and 
tierce naval adventurers, as the Anglo-Saxon. 1 ? 
themselves had been two centuries before. 
Most extraordinary accounts are given of their 
hardihood, and of their fierce and predatory 
habits. They haunted the bays along the coasts 
of Sweden and Norway, and the islands which 
incumber the entrance to the Baltic Sea. They 
were banded together in great hordes, each rul- 
ed by a chieftain, who was called a sea king-, 
because his dominions scarcely extended at all 
to the land. His possessions, his power, his 
subjects pertained all to the sea. It is true 
they built or bought their vessels on the shore, 
and they sought shelter among the islands and 
in the bays in tempests and storms ; but they 
prided themselves in never dwelling in houses 
or sharing, in any way, the comforts or enjoy - 
ments of the land. They made excursions ev- 
ery where for conquest and plunder, and were 
proud of their successful deeds of violence and 



62 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 450-850 

Piratical habits of the Danes. Younger eons of noblet 



wrong. It was honorable to enter into theii 
service. Chieftains and nobles who dwelt upon 
the land sent their sons to acquire greatness, 
ind wealth, and fame by joining these piratical 
gangs, just as high-minded military or naval 
officers, in modern times, would enter into the 
service of an honorable government abroad. 

Besides the great leaders of the most power 
fill of these bands, there was an infinite num. 
ber of petty chieftains, who commanded single 
ships or small detached squadrons. These were 
generally the younger sons of sovereigns or 
chieftains who lived upon the land, the elder 
brothers remaining at home to inherit the 
throne or the paternal inheritance. It was dis- 
creditable then, as it is now in Europe, for an\ 
branches of families of the higher class to en- 
gage in any pursuit of hororable industry 
They could plunder and kill without dishonor, 
but they could not toil. To rob and murder 
was glory; to do good or to be useful in any 
way was disgrace. 

These younger sons went to sea at a very 
early age too. They were sent often at twelve, 
that they might beoome early habituated to the 
exposures and dangers of their dreadful com- 
bats, and of the wintery storms- and inured tc 



A.D. 450-850.] The Danes. 63 

Piratical excursions. Booty and apoll 

the athletio exertions which the sea rigorously 
exacts of ail who venture within her dominion. 
When they returned they were received with 
consideration and honor, or with neglect and 
disgrace, according as they were more or less 
laden with booty and spoil. In the summer 
months the land kings themselves would organ- 
ize and equip naval armaments for similar ex- 
peditions. They would cruise along the coasts 
of the sea, to land where they found an un- 
guarded point, and sack a town or burn a cas- 
tle, seize treasures, capture men and make them 
slaves, kidnap women, and sometimes destroy 
helpless children with their spears in a mannei 
too barbarous and horrid to be described. On 
returning to their homes, they would perhaps 
find their own castles burned and their own 
dwellings roofless, from the visit of some sim 
ilar horde. 

Thus the seas of western Europe were cov- 
ered in those days, as they are now, with fleet* 
of shipping ; though, instead of being engaged 
as now, in the quiet and peaceful pursuits of 
commerce, freighted with merchandise, manned! 
with harmless seamen, and welcome wherever 
they come, they were then loaded only with 
ammunition and arms, and crowded with iiercfl 



64 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 450-850 

itagnar Lodbrog. Harald Defeat of R&gnai 

and reckless robbers, the objects of universa 
detestation and terror. 

One of the first of thess sea kings whc ao 
quired sufficient individual distinction to be 
personally remembered in history has given a 
sort of immortality, by his exploits, to the very 
rude name of Ragnar Lodbrog, and his charac- 
ter was as rude as his name. 

Ragnar's father was a prince of Norwa\ . 
He married, however, a Danish princess, and 
thus Ragnar acquired a sort of hereditary right 
to a Danish kingdom — the territory including 
various islands and promontories at the en- 
trance of the Baltic Sea. There was, however, 
a competitor for this power, named Harald. 
The Franks made comrnon cause with Harald 
Ragnar was defeated and driven away from the 
land. Though defeated, however, he was not 
subdued. He organized a naval force, and 
made himself a sea king. His operations on 
the stormy element of the seas were conducted 
with so much decision and energy, and at th 
same time with so much sy stem and plan, thut 
his power rapidly extended. He brought the 
other sea kings under his control, and establish- 
ed quite a maritime empire. Hj made more 
and more distant excursions, and at last, in or* 




24—5 



AX 450-850.] TheDane^ 67 

Ragnar Invades France. Incursions Into Spain. 

der to avenge himself upon the Franks for their 
interposition in behalf of his enemy at homej 
no passed through the Straits of Dover, and 
thence down the English Channel to the mouth 
Df the Seine. He ascended this river to Rouen, 
and there landed, spreading throughout the 
country the utmost terror and dismay. From 
Rouen he marched to Paris, finding no force 
able to resist him on his way, or to defend the 
capital. His troops destroyed the monastery 
of St. Germain's, near the city, and then the 
King of the Franks, finding himself at their 
mercy, bought them off by paying a large sum 
of money. With this money and the other 
booty which they had acquired, Ragnar and his 
horde now returned to their ships at Rouen, and 
sailed away again toward their usual haunts 
among the bays and islands of the Baltio Sea. 
This exploit, of course, gave Ragnar Lod- 
brog's barbarous name a very wide celebrity. 
It tended, too, greatly to increase and establish 
his power. He afterward made similar incur- 
sions into Spain, and finally grew bold enough 
to biive the Anglo-Saxons themselves on the 
green island of Britain, as the Anglo-Saxons 
had themselves braved the aboriginal inhabit- 
ants two or three centuries before. But Rag- 



68 Alfred the Great. [ A. D. 450-800 

Ragnar's descent upon England. He loses his ships 

aar seems to have found the Anglo-Saxon 
swords and spears which he advanced to en- 
counter on landing in England much more for« 
midable than those which were raised against 
him on the southern side of the Channel. He 
was destroyed in the contest. The circum- 
stances were as follows : 

In making his preparations for a descent 
upon the English coast, he prepared for a very 
determined contest, knowing well the characte. 
of the foes with whom he would have now to 
deal. He built two enormous ships, much 
larger than those of the ordinary size, and arm- 
ed and equipped them in the most perfect man- 
ner. He filled them with selected men, and 
sailing down along the coast of Scotland, he 
watched for a place and an opportunity to land 
Winds and storms are almost always raginr 
among the dark and gloomy mountains and lsl 
ands of Scotland. Ragnar's ships were caught 
n one of these gait* and driven on shore. The 
ships were lost, bat the men escaped to the 
land. Ragnar, nothing daunted, organized anc 
marshaled them as an army, and marched intc 
the interior to attack any force which might 
appear against them. His course led him to 
Northumbria, the most northerly Saxon king* 



A.D.850.] - The Danes. Hy 

Ragnar defeated by the Saxons. His cruei death, 

ion', Here he soon encountered a very large 
md superior force, under the command of ED a, 
,he king; but, with the reckless desperation 
which so strongly marked his character, he ad- 
vanced to attack them. Three times, it is said, 
he pierced the enemy's lines, cutting his way 
entirely through them with his little column. 
He was, however, at length overpowered. His 
men were cut to pieces, and he was himself 
taken prisoner. We regret to have to add that 
our cruel ancestors put their captive to death in 
a very barbarous manner. They filled a den 
with poisonous snakes, and then drove the 
wretched Ragnar into it. The horrid reptiles 
billed him with their stings. It was Ella, the 
king of Northumbria, who ordered and directed 
this punishment. 

The expedition of Ragnar thus ended with- 
out leading to any permanent results in Anglo- 
Saxon history. It is, however, memorable as 
the first of a series of invasions from the Danes 
—or Northmen, as they are sometimes called, 
since they came from all the coasts of the Bal- 
tic and German Seas — which, in the end, gave 
the Anglo-Saxons inhnite trouble. At one time, 
in fact, the conquests of the Danes threatened 
to root out and destroy the Anglo-Saxon powe» 



70 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 851. 

Danger of the Saxons. Other invasions 

from the island altogether. They would prob- 
ably have actually effected this, had the nation 
not been saved by the prudence, the courage, 
the sagacity, and the consummate skill of the 
subject of this history, as will fully appear to 
the reader in the course of future chapters. 

Ragnar was not the only one of these North- 
men who made attempts to land in England 
and to plunder the Anglo-Saxons, even in his 
own day. Although there were no very regu- 
lar historical records kept in those early times, 
still a great number of legends, and ballads, 
and ancient chronicles have come down to us, 
narrating the various transactions which occur- 
red, and it appears by these that the sea kings 
generally were beginning, at this time, to har- 
ass the English coasts, as well as all the other 
shores to which they could gain access. Some 
of these invasions would seem to have been of 
a very formidable character. 

At first these excursions were made in the 
summer season only, and, after collecting thoii 
plunder, the marauders would return in the au- 
tumn to their own shores, and winter in the 
bays and among the islands there. At length, 
nowever, they grew more bold. A large band 
of them landed, in the autumn of 851, on the 



A.D.851.] The Danes. 71 

Plunder of London and other places. Defeat of the Dane* 

island of Thanet where the Saxons themselves 
had landed four centuries before, and began 
very coolly to establish their winter quarters on 
English ground. They succeeded in maintain- 
ing their stay during the winter, and in the 
spring were prepared for bolder undertakings 
still. 

They formed a grand confederation, and col- 
lected a fleet of three hundred and fifty ships, 
galleys, and boats, and advanced boldly up the 
Thames. They plundered London, and then 
marched south to Canterbury, which they plun- 
dered too. They went thence into one of the 
Anglo-Saxon kingdoms called Mercia, the in- 
habitants of the country not being able to op- 
pose any effectual obstacle to their marauding 
march. Finally, a great Anglo-Saxon force 
was organized and brought out to meet them. 
The battle was fought in a forest of oaks, and 
the Danes were defeated. The victory, how- 
ever, afforded the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms only 
a temporary relief. New hordes were contin- 
ually arriving and landing, growing more and 
more bold if they met with success, and but lit- 
tle daunted or discouraged by temporary fail* 
ares. 

The most formidable )f all these expeditions 



72 Alfrkd the Great [A.D. 851 

The eons and relativss of Ragnar. Their plana and preparation* 

was one organized and commanded by the sons 
and relatives of Ragnar, whom, it will be rec- 
ollected, the Saxons had cruelly killed by pois- 
inous serpents in a dungeon or den. The re!- 
ttives of the unhappy chieftain thus barbar- 
ously executed were animated in their enter- 
prise by the double stimulus of love of plunder 
and a ferocious thirst for revenge. A consider- 
able time was spent in collecting a large fleet, 
and in combining, for this purpose, as many 
chieftains as could be induced to share in the 
enterprise. The story of their fellow-country- 
man expiring under the stings of adders and 
scorpions, while his tormentors were exulting 
around him over the cruel agonies which their 
ingenuity had devised, aroused them to a phren- 
sy of hatred and revenge. They proceeded, 
however, very deliberately in their plans. They 
did nothing hastily. They allowed ample time 
for th~ assembling and organizing of the con- 
federation. When all was ready, they found 
that there were eight kings and twenty earls 
ji the alliance, generally the relatives and com- 
rades of Ragnar. The tw r o most prominent of 
these commanders were Guthrum and Hubba 
Hubba was one of Ragnar's sons. At iength, 
toward the close of the summer, the formidable 



A.D.851.J The Danes 73 

The Danes winter in England. Alarm of the Saxons. 

expedition set sail. They approached the En- 
glish coast, and landed without meeting with 
any resistance. The Saxons seemed appalled 
and paralyzed at the greatness of the danger. 
Tlie several kingdoms of the Heptarchy, though 
they had been imperfectly united, some years 
before, under Egbert, were still more or less 
distinct, and each hoped that the one first in- 
vaded would be the only one which would suf- 
fer ; and as these kingdoms were rivals, and 
often hostile to each other, no general league 
was formed against what soon proved to be the 
common enemy. The Danes, accordingly, qui- 
etly encamped, and made calm and deliberate 
arrangements for spending the winter in their 
new quarters, as if they were at home. 

During all this time, notwithstanding the 
coolness and deliberation with which these 
avengers of their murdered countryman acted, 
the fires of their resentment and revenge were 
slowly but steadily burning, and as soon as the 
spring opened, they put themselves in battle 
array, and marched into the dominions of Ella. 
Ella did all that it was possible to do to meet 
and oppose them, but the spirit of retaliation 
and rage which his cruelties had evoked wa* 
ux» strong to be resisted. His country was rav 



74 Alfred the Greit. [A.D.W67 

Horrible death of Ella. Ravages of the Danes 

aged, his army was defeated, he was taken 
prisoner, and the dying terrors and agonies of 
Ragnar among the serpents were expiated by 
tenfold worse tortures which they inflicted upon 
Ella's mutilated body, by a process too horrible 
to be described. 

After thus successfully accomplishing the 
great object of their expedition, it was to have 
been hoped that they would leave the island 
and return to their Danish homes. But they 
evinced no disposition to do this. On the con- 
trary, they commenced a course of ravage and 
conquest in all parts of England, which con- 
tinued for several years. The parts of the coun- 
try which attempted to oppose them they de- 
stroyed by fire and sword. They seized cities, 
garrisoned and occupied them, and settled in 
them as if to make them their permanent 
homes. One kingdom after another was sub- 
dued. The kingdom of Wessex seemed alone 
to remain, and that was the subject of contest 
Ethelred was the king. The Danes advanced 
into his dominions to attack him. In the bat- 
tle that ensued, Ethelred was killed. The suc- 
cessor to his throne was his brother Alfred, the 
subject of this history, who thus found himself 
suddenly and unexpectedly called upon to as- 



A J). 867.] The Danes. 76 

Alfred. His sadden elevation to p»wer 

surae the responsibilities and powers of supreme 
command, in as dark and frying a crisis of na- 
tional calamity and danger as can well be con 
«eived. The manner in which Alfred acted in 
the emergency, rescuing his country from her 
perils, and laying the foundations, as he did, of 
all the greatness and glory which has since ac- 
crued to her, has caused his memory to be held 
in the highest estimation among all nations, 
and has immortalized his name. 



76 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 850-855 



Alfred s early life. Influences under which his character was formed 



Chapter IV 
Alfred's Early Years. 

BEFORE commencing the narrative of Al- 
fred's administration of the public affairs 
j{ his realm, it is necessary to go back a little, 
in order to give some account of the more pri- 
vate occurrences of his early life. Alfred, like 
Washington, was distinguished for a very ex- 
traordinary combination of qualities which ex- 
hibited itself in his character, viz., the combina- 
tion of great military energy and skill on the 
one hand, with a very high degree, on the other ; 
of moral and religious principle, and conscien- 
tious devotion to the obligations of duty. This 
combination, so rarely found in the distinguish- 
ed personages which have figured among man- 
kind, is, in a great measure, explained and ac- 
counted for, in Alfred's case, by the peculiar 
circumstances of his early history. 

It was his brother E their ed, as has already 
oeen stated, whom Alfred immediately suc- 
ceeded His father's name was Ethelwolf; and 
it seems highly probable that the peculiar turn 
which Alfred's mind seemed to take in after 



A.D. 850-S55.1 Early Years. 77 



Alfreds father, Ethelwolf. Monasteries 



years, was the consequence, in some considera- 
ble degree, of this parent's situation and char- 
acter. Ethelwolf was a younger son, and was 
brought up in a monastery at Winchester. The 
monasteries of those days were the seats ooth 
of learning and piety, that is, of such learning 
and piety as then prevailed. The ideas of re- 
ligious faith and duty which were entertained a 
thousand years ago were certainly very differ- 
ent from those which are received now ; still, 
there was then, mingled with much supersti- 
tion, a great deal of honest and conscientious 
devotion to the principles of Christian duty, and 
of sincere and earnest desire to live for the hon- 
or of God and religion, and for the highest and 
best welfare of mankind. Monastio establish- 
ments existed every where, defended by the sa- 
credness which invested them from the storms 
of violence and war which swept over every 
thing which the cross did not protect. To these 
the thoughtful, the serious, and the intellectual 
retired, leaving the restless, the rude, and the 
turbulent to distract and terrify the earth with 
their endless quarrels. Here they studied^ thev 
wrote, they read ; they transcribed books, they 
kept records, they arranged exercises of devo- 
tion, they educated youth, and, in a word, pei 



78 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 850~»55 

Ethelwolf retires to a monastery. He is released from his tow» 

formed, in the inclosed and secluded retreats 
in which they sought shelter, those intellectual 
functions of civil life which now can all be per- 
formed in open exposure, but which in those 
days, if there had been no monastic retreats to 
shelter them, could not have been performed at 
all. For the learning and piety of the present 
age, whether Catholic or Protestant, to malign 
the monasteries of Anglo-Saxon times is for the 
oak to traduce the acorn from which it sprung. 

Ethelwolf was a younger son, and, conse- 
quently, did not expect xo reign. He went to 
the monastery at Winchester, and took the 
vows. His father had no objection to this plan, 
satisfied with having his oldest son expect and 
prepare for the throne. As, however, he ad- 
vanced toward manhood, the thought of the 
probability that he might be called to the throne 
in the event of his brother's death led ail par- 
ties to desire that he might be released from his 
monastic vows. They applied, accordingly, to 
the pope for a dispensation. The dispensation 
was granted, and Ethelwolf became a genera] 
In the army. In the end his brother died, and 
he became king. 

He continued, however, during his reign, to 
manifest tb.6 peaceful, quiet, and serious char- 



A.D.853.J Early Years 79 

Ethelwolf a minister. Ethel wolf 's religious habits 

acter which had led him to enter the monaa 
tery, and which had probably been strengthen- 
ed and confirmed by the influences and habits 
to which he had been accustomed there. He 
had, however, a very able, energetic, and war- 
like minister, who managed his affairs with 
great ability and success for a long course of 
years. Ethelwolf, in the mean time, leaving 
public affairs to his minister, continued to de- 
vote himself to the pursuits to which his predi 
actions inclined him. He visited monasteries 
he cultivated learning ; he endowed the Church ; 
he made journeys to Rome. All this time, his 
kingdom, which had before almost swallowed 
up the other kingdoms of the Heptarchy, be- 
came more and more firmly established, until, 
at length, the Danes came in, as is described in 
the last chapter, and brought the whole land 
into the most extreme and imminent danger. 
The case did not, however, become absolutely 
desperate until after Ethel wolf's death, as wil 
be hereafter explained. 

Ethelwolf married a lady whose gentle, quiet, 
and serious character corresponded with his 
own. Alfred was the youngest, and, as is often 
the case with the youngest, the favorite child 
He was kept near to his father and mother, ano 



80 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 853 

Alfred sent to Rome. Pomp of the tourney 

closely under their influence, until his mother 
died, which event, however, took place when he 
was quite young After this, Ethel wolf sent 
Alfred to Roue. Rome was still more the 
great center then than it is now of religion and 
learning. There were schools there, maintain 
ed by the various nations of Europe respect* 
ively, for the education of the sons of the no- 
bility. Alfred, however, did not go for this pur- 
pose. It was only to make the journey, to see 
the city, to he introduced to the pope, and to 
be presented, by means of the fame of the ex- 
pedition, to the notice of Europe, as the future 
sovereign of England; for it was Ethelwolf's 
intention, at this time, to p ass over his older 
sons, and make this Benjamin his successor on 
the throne. 

The journey was made with great pomp and 
parade. A large train of nobles and ecclesias- 
tics accompanied the young prince, and a splen- 
did reception was given to him in the various 
towns in France which he passed through oa 
his way. He was bu^fiv^^ears^old ; but his 
position and his prospects made him, though so 
young, a personage of great distinction. After 
spending a short time at Rome, he returns' 
again to England. 



A.D.5&3.] Early Years. HI 

Ethelwolf goes to Rome. Arrangements for the Journey 

Two years after this, Ethelwolf, Alfred's fa- 
ther, determined to go to Rome himself. His 
wife had died, his older sons had grown up, 
and his own natural aversion to the cares and 
toils of government seems to have been increas- 
ed by the alarms and dangers produced by the 
incursions of the Danes, and by his own ad- 
vancing years. Having accordingly arranged 
the affairs of the kingdom by placing his oldest 
sons in command, ho took the youngest, Alfred, 
who was now seven years old, with him, and, 
crossing the Channel, landed on the Continent, 
on his way to Rome. 

All the arrangements for this journey were 
oonducted on a scale of great magnificence and 
splendor. It is true that it was a rude and 
semi-barbarous age, and very little progress had 
been made in respect to the peaceful and indus- 
trial arts of life ; but, in respect to the arts con- 
nected with war, to every thing that related to 
the march of armies, the pomp and parade of 
royal progresses, the caparison of horses, the 
armor and military dresses of men, and the pa- 
rade and pageantry of military spectacles, a 
very considerable degree of advancement had 
been Pttained. 

King Ethelwolf availed himself of all the rew 

24—6 



82 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 85tf 

EthelwolPs retinue. Presents to the pope 

sources that he could command to give eclat to 
his journey. He had a namerous train of at- 
tendants and followers, and he carried with 
him a number of rich and valuable presents foi 
the pope. He was received with great distinc- 
tion by King Charles of France, through whosf 
dominions he had to pass on his way to Italy 
Charles had a daughter, Judith, a young girl 
with whom Ethelwolf, though now himself 
quite advanced in life, fell deeply in love. 

Ethelwolf, after a short stay in France, wen- 
on to Rome. His arrival and his visit here at 
tracted great attention. As King of England 
he was a personage of very considerable conse 
quence, and then he came with a large retinue 
and in magnificent state. His religious predi- 
lections, too, inspired him with a very strong 
interest in the ecclesiastical authorities and in- 
stitutions of Rome, and awakened, reciprocally 
in these authorities, a strong interest in him 
He made costly presents to the pope, some of 
which were peculiarly splendid. One was a 
crown of pure gold, which weighed, it is said, 
four pounds. Another was a sword, richl) 
mounted in gold. There were also several uten- 
sils and vessels of Saxon form and construction, 
tome of gold and others of silver gilt, and also a 



A. D. $53.] Karly Years. 83 

Distribution of money. Ethelwolfa resource* 

considerable number of dresses, all vrery richly 
adorned. King Ethelwolf also made a distri- 
bution in money to all tne inhabitants of Rome : 
gold to the nobles and to the cleigy, and silver 
to the people. How far his munificence on this 
occasion may have been exaggerated by the 
Saxon chroniclers, who, of course, like other 
early historians, were fond of magnifying ail 
the exploits, and swelling, in every way, the 
fame of the heroes of their stories, we can not 
now know. There is no doubt, however, that 
all the circumstances of Ethelwolf 's visit to the 
great capital were such as to attract universal 
attention to the event, and to make the little 
Alfred, on whose account the journey was in a 
great measure performed, an object of very gen- 
eral interest and attention. 

In fact, there is every reason to believe that 
the Saxon nations had, at that time, made such 
progress in wealth, population, and power as to 
afford to such a prince as Ethelwolf the means 
of making a great display, if he chose to do so, 
on such an occasion as that of a royal progress 
through France and a visit to the great city of 
Rome. The Saxons had been in possession of 
England, at this time, many hundred years ; 
and though, during all this perioc , they had beeo 



^4 A LPR K r> Til K (i P K AT | A..D. 854 

Rome. Its schools of learning 

involved in various wars, both with one another 
and with the neighboring nations, they had 
been all the time steadily increasing in wealth, 
and making constant improvements in all the 
arts and refinements of life. Ethelwolf reigned, 
therefore, over a people of considerable wealth 
and power, and he moved across the Continent 
on his way to Rome, and figured while there, 
as a personage of no ordinary distinction. 

Rome was at this time, as we have said, the 
great center of education, as well as of religious 
and ecclesiastical influence. In fact, education 
and religion went hand in hand in those days, 
there being scarcely any instruction in books 
excepting for the purposes of the Church. Sep* 
arate schools had been established at Rome by 
the leading nations of Europe, where then 
youth could be taught, each at an institution 
in which his own language was spoken. Eth- 
elwolf remained a year at Rome, to give Alfred 
the benefit of the advantages which the city 
afforded. The boy was of a reflective and 
thoughtful turn of mind, and applied himself 
diligently to the performance of his duties. His 
mind was rapidly expanded, his powers were 
developed, and stores of such knowledge as was 
adapted to the circumstances and wants of the 



A.D.855.] Early Years. 86 

The Saxon seminary burned. Rebuilt by Ethelwolf 

times were laid up. The religious and intel- 
lectual influences thus brought to bear upos. 
the young Alfred's mind produced strong and 
decided effects in the formation of his character 
—effects which were very strikingly visible in 
his subsequent career. 

Ethelwolf found, when he arrived at Rome, 
that the Saxon seminary had been burned the 
preceding year. It had been founded by a for- 
mer Saxon king. Ethelwolf rebuilt it, and 
placed the institution on a new and firmer 
foundation than before. He also obtained some 
edicts from the papal government to secure and 
confirm certain rights of his Saxon subjects re- 
siding in the city, which rights had, it seems, 
been in some degree infringed upon, and he thus 
saved his subjects from oppressions to which 
they had been exposed. In a word, Ethelwolf 's 
visit not only afforded an imposing spectacle to 
those who witnessed the pageantry and the cer- 
emonies which marked it, but it was attended 
with permanent and substantial benefits to 
many classes, who became, in consequence #f 
it, the objects of the pious monarch's benevoloat 
regard. 

At length, when the year had expired, Eth- 
elwolf set out on his return He went baok 



S6 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 855 

Ethelwolf In Prance. He falls in lore with Judith. 

through France, as he came, and during his 
?tay in that country on the way home, an event 
occurred which was of no inconsiderable conse- 
quence to Alfred himself, and which changed 
or modified Ethelwolf's whole destiny. The 
event was that, having, as before stated, be- 
come enamored with the young Princess Ju- 
dith, the daughter of the King of France, Eth- 
el wolf demanded her in marriage. We have 
no means of knowing how the proposal affected 
the princess herself ; marriages in that rank 
and station in life were then, as they are now 
in fact, wholly determined and controlled by 
great political considerations, or by the personal 
predilections of powerful men, with very little 
regard for the opinions or desires of the party 
whose happiness was most to be affected by the 
result. At all events, whatever may have been 
Judith's opinion, the marriage was decided upon 
and consummated, and the venerable king re- 
turned to England with his youthful bride 
The historians of the day say, what would seem 
almost incredible, that she was but about twelve 
years 01*. 

Judith's Saxon name was Leotheta. She 
made an excellent mother to the young Alfred, 
though she innocently and indirectly caused hei 



A..D.855.] Early Years. 8? 

Ethelwolf' s death. Ethelbald 

husband much trouble in his realm. Alfred's 
older brothers were wild and turbulent men, 
and one of them, Ethelbald, was disposed to 
retain a portion of the power with which he had 
been invested during his fatner's absence, in- 
stead of giving it up peaceably on his return. 
He organized a rebellion against his father, 
making the king's course of conduct in respect 
to his youthful bride the pretext. Ethelwolf 
was very fond of his young wife, and seemed 
disposed to elevate her to a position of great 
political consideration and honor. Ethelbald 
complained of this. The father, loving peace 
rather than war, compromised the question with 
him, and relinquished to him a part of his king- 
dom. Two years after this he died, leaving 
Ethelbald the entire possession of the throne. 
Ethelbald, as if to complete and consummate 
his unnatural conduct toward his father, per- 
suaded the beautiful Judith, his father's widow, 
to become his wife, in violation not only of all 
laws human and divine, but also of those uni- 
versal instincts of propriety which no lapse of 
time and no changes of condition can eradicate 
from the human soul. This second union 
throws some light on the question of Judith's 
action. Since she was willing to marry he? 



38 Alfred the Great. [A.t>. 85? 

Alfred's character. Judith's interest in him. 

husband's son to preserve the position of a 
queen, we may well suppose that she did not 
object to uniting herself to the father in order 
to attain it. Perhaps, however, we ought to 
consider that no responsibility whatever, in 
transactions of this character, should attach to 
*uch a mere child. 

During all this time Alfred was passing from 
his eighth to his twelfth year. He was a verv 
intelligent and observing boy, and had acquired 
much knowledge of the world and a great deal 
of general information in the journeys which he 
had taken with his father, both about England 
and also on the Continent, in France and Italy. 
Judith had taken a great interest in his prog- 
ress. She talked with him, she encouraged his 
inquiries, she explained to him what he did not 
understand, and endeavored in every way to 
develop and strengthen his mental powers. Al- 
fred was a favorite, and, as such, was always 
very much indulged ; but there was a certain 
conscientiousness and gentleness of spirit which 
marked his character even in these early years^ 
and seemed to defend him from the injurious 
influences which indulgence and extreme atten- 
tion and care often produce. Alfred was con- 
siderate, quiet, and reflective ; he improved thr 



A.D.857.] Early Years. 89 

Alfred's fondness for Anglo-Saxon poetry. Its character 

privileges which he enjoyed, and di^not_abu$e 
the kindness and the favors which every one by 
whom he was known lavished upon him. 

Alfred was ve ry fond of the Aji°^Saxonj)o« 
Kry which abounded in those days. The poems 
were legends, ballads, and tales, which describ- 
ed the exploits of heroes, and the adventures of 
pilgrims and wanderers of all kinds. These 
poems were to Alfred what Homer's poems 
were to Alexander. He loved to listen to them, 
to hear them recited, and to commit them to 
memory. In committing them to memory, he 
was obliged to depend upon hearing the poems 
repeated by others, for h e himself could not 
read. 

And yet he was now twelve years old. It 
may surprise the reader, perhaps, to be thus 
told, after all that has been said of the attention 
paid to Alfred's education, and of the progress 
which he had made, that he could not even read. 
But reading, far from being then considered, as 
it is now, an essential attainment for all, and 
me which we are sure of finding possessed by 
all who have received any instruction whatever, 
was regarded in those days a sort of teohnical 
art, learned only by those who were U make* 
some professional use of the acquisition Monks 



90 Alfred the Great. [A J). 857 

Alfred ■ .liability to read. The Anglo-Saxon manuscript 



and clerks could always read, but generals, gen- 
tlemen, and kings very seldom. And as they 
could not read, neither could they write. Thev 
made a rude cross at the end of the writings 
which they wished to authenticate instead of 
signing their names — a mode which remains to 
the present day, though it has descended to the 
very lowest and humblest classes of society. 

In fact, even the upper classes of society 
could not generally learn to read in those days, 
for there were no books. Every thing recorded 
was in manuscripts, the characters being writ- 
ten with great labor and care, usually on parch- 
ment, the captions and leading letters being 
often splendidly illuminated and adorned by 
gilded minic aires of heads, or figures, or land- 
scapes, which enveloped or surrounded them 
Judith had such a manuscript of some Saxon 
poems. She had learned the language while in 
France. One ( 1q ^ Alfred was looking at the 
book, and admiring the character in whicn it 
nras written, particularly the ornamented let- 
ters at the headings. Some of his brothers were 
Ln the room, they, of course, being much older 
than he Judith said that either of them might 
have the book who would first learn to read it. 
The older brothers paid little attention to thif 



A.D.859.J Early Years 91 

Alfred desires to learn Latin. Latin literature 

proposal, but Alfred's interest was strongly 
awakened. He immediately sought and found 
#ome one to teach him, and before long he read 
the volume to Judith, and claimed it as his 
jwn. She rejoiced at his success, and fa] filled 
ber promise with the greatest pleasure. 

Alfred soon acquired, by his Anglo-Saxon 
studies, a great taste for books, and had next a 
strong desire to study the Latin language. The 
scholars of the various nations of Europe form- 
ed at that time, as, in fact, they ^_ now, one 
community, linked together by many ties. They 
wrote and spoke the Latin language, that being 
the only language which could be understood 
by them all. In fact, the works which were 
most highly valued then by the educated men 
of all nations, were the poems and the histories, 
and other writings produced by the classic au- 
thors of the Roman commonwealth. There 
were also many works on theology, on ecclesi- 
astical polity, and on law, of great authority 
and in high repute, all written in the Latin 
tongue Copies of these works were made by 
the monies, in their retreats in abbeys and mon- 
asteries, and learned men spent their lives in 
perusing them. To explore this field was not 
properly a duty mcumbent upon a young prince 



92 Alfred the Great. [A.D. b60 

Alfred's skill in hunting. Etbelbald puts a way his wife. 

destined to take a seat upon a throne, but Al- 
fred felt a great desire to undertake the work. 
He did not do it, however, for the reason, as he 
afterward stated, that there was no one at court 
it the time who was qualified to teach him. 

Alfred, though he had thus the thoughtful 
and reflective habits of a student, was also act- 
ive, and graceful, and strong in his bodily de- 
velopment. He excelled in all the athletic rec- 
reations of the time, and was especially famous 
for his skill, and courage, and power as a hunt- 
er. He gave every indication, in a word, at 
this early age, of possessing that uncommon 
combination of mental and personal qualities 
which fits those who possess it to secure and 
maintain a great ascendency among mankind. 

The unnatural union which had been formed 
on the death of Ethelwolf between his youthful 
widow and her aged husband's son did notlong 
continue. The people of England were very 
much shocked at such a marriage, and a great 
prelate, the Bishop of Winchester, remonstrated 
against it with such sternness and authority, 
that Ethelbald not only soon put his wife away, 
but submitted to a severe penance which the 
bishop imposed upon him in retribution for his 
sin Judith, thus forsaken, soon afterward sold 



AJD.860.] Early Years. 93 

Judith returns to her native land. She marries a third time. 

the lands and estates which her two husbands 
Had severally granted her, and, taking a final 
leave of Alfred, whom she tenderly loved, she 
returned to her native land. Not long after 
this, she was married a third time, to a conti- 
nental prince, whose dominions lay between 
the Baltic and the Rhine, and from this period 
she disappears entirely from the stage of Al- 
fred's history 



94 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 860 

The Dmnea. Their hostility to Christianity 



Chapter V. 
State of England. 

HAVING thus brought down the narrative 
of Alfred's early life as far and as fully as 
the records that remain enable us to do so, we 
resume the general history of the national af- 
fairs by returning to the subject of the depreda- 
tions and conquests of the Danes, and the cir- 
cumstances connected with Alfred's accession to 
the throne. 

To give the reader some definite and clear 
ideas of the nature of this warfare, it will be 
well to describe in detail some few of the inci- 
dents and scenes which ancient historians have 
recorded. The following was one case which 
occurred : 

The Danes, it must be premised, were par- 
ticularly hostile to the monasteries and rrligicus 
establishments of the Anglo-Saxons. In the 
first place, they were themselves pagans, and 
they hated Christianity. In the second place, 
they knew that these places of sacred seclusion 
were often the depositories selected for the cus- 
tody or concealment of treasure ; and, beside* 



A..D. 860.] State op Engla>d U5 

Plunderinga of the Danes. Their cruelties to monk* and nan* 

the treasures which kings and potentates often 
placed in them for safety, these establishments 
possessed utensils of gold and silver for the serv- 
ice of the chapels, and a great variety of valu- 
able gifts, such as pious saints or penitent sin 
ners were continually bequeathing to them 
The Danes were, consequently, never better 
pleased than when sacking an abbey or a mon- 
astery. In such exploits they gratified their 
terrible animal propensities, both of hatred and 
love, by the cruelties which they perpetrated 
personally upon the monks and the nuns, and 
at the same time enriched their coffers with the 
most valuable spoils. A dreadful tale is told 
of one company of nuns, who, in the consterna- 
tion and terror which they endured at the ap- 
proach of a band of Danes, mutLated their faces 
in a manner too horrid to be described, as the 
only means left to them for protection against 
the brutality of their foes. They followed, in 
adopting this measure, the advice and the ex« 
ample of the lady superior. It was effectual. 

There was a certain abbey, called Crowland, 
which was in those days one of the most cele- 
brated in the island. It was situated near the 
southern border of Lincolnshire, which lies on 
the eastern side of England. There is a great 



90 Alfred the Great. [A.D. bbO 

Abbey of Crowland. Its ruins still remain 

shallow bay, called The Wash, on this eastern 
shore, and it is surrounded by a broad tract of 
low and marshy lanl, which is drained by long 
canals, and traversed by roads built upon em- 
bankments. Dikes skirt the margins of the 
streams, and wind-mills are engaged in perpet- 
ual toil to raise the water from the fields into 
the channels by which it is conveyed away. 

Crowland is at the confluence of two rivers, 
which flow sluggishly through this flat but 
beautiful and verdant region. The remains of 
the old abbey still stand, built on piles driven 
into the marshy ground, and they form at the 
present time a very interesting mass of ruins 
The year before Alfred acceded to the throne, 
the abbey was in all its glory ; and on one oc- 
casion it furnished two hundred men, who went 
out under the command of one of the monks, 
named Friar Joiy, to join the English armies 
and fight the Danes. 

The English army was too small notwith- 
standing this desperate effort to strengthen it. 
They stood, however, all day in a compact band, 
protecting themselves with their shields from th© 
arrows of the foot soldiers of the enemy, and 
with their pikes from the onset of the cavalry 
At night the Danes retired, as if giving up tht> 



AD. 860.] State of England. 97 

A terrible battle. Scene of consternation. 



contest ; but as soon as the Saxons, now released 
from their positions of confinement and re- 
straint, had separated a little, and began to fee. 
somewhat more secure, their implacable foes re- 
turned again and attacked them in separate 
masses, and with more fury than before. The 
Saxons endeavored in vain either to defend 
themselves or escape. As fast as their comrades 
were killed, the survivors stood upon the heaps 
of the slain, to gain what little advantage they 
could from so slight an elevation. Nearly all at 
length were killed . A few escaped into a neigh- 
boring wood, where they lay concealed during 
the day following, and then, when the darkness 
of the succeeding night came to enable them to 
conceal their journey, they made their way to 
the abbey, to make known to the anxious in- 
mates of it the destruction of the army, and to 
warn them of the imminence of the impending 
danger to which they were now exposed. 

A dreadful scene of consternation and terror 
ensued. The affrighted messengers told their 
tale, breathless and wayworn, at the door of 
the chapel, where the monks were engaged at 
their devotions. The aisles were filled with ex- 
clamations of alarm and despairing lamenta- 
tions. The abbot, whose name was Theodore, 

24—7 



9* Alfred the Great. [A.D. bbi, 

Proceeding at the monastery. Part ui tne treasure sent away 

immediately began to take measures suited to 
th* emergency. lie resolved to retain at the 
monastery only some aged monks and a fevr 
children, whose utter defenselessness, he thought, 
would disarm the ferocity and vengeance of the 
Danes. The rest, only about thirty, however, 
in number — nearly all the brethren having gone 
out under the Friar Joly into the great battle 
—were put on board a boat to be sent down the 
rive* It seems at first view a strange idea to 
send away the vigorous and strong, and keep 
the infirm and helpless at the scene of danger ; 
but the monks knew very well that all resist- 
ance was vain, and that, consequently, their 
greatest safety would lie in the absence of all 
appearance of the possibility of resistance. 

The treasures were sent away, too, with all 
the men. They hastily collected all the valu- 
ables together, the relics, the jewels, and ail of 
the gold and silver plate which could be easily 
removed, and placed them in a boat — packing 
them as securely as their haste and trepidation 
allowed. The boats glided down the river till 
they came to a lonely spot, where an anchorite 
or sort of hermit lived in solitude. The men 
and the treasures were to be intrusted to his 
aharge. H3 concealed the men in the thiokets 



A.P. ttoO.J State of England. ys 

The remaining treasure concealed. Abbot Theodore and the mcukr 



and othei hiding-places in the woods, and bur- 
ied the treasures. 

In the mean time, as soon as the boats and 
the party of monks which accompanied them 
had left the abbey, the Abbot Theodore and the 
old monks that remained with him urged on 
the work of concealing that part of the treas- 
ures which had not been taken away. All of 
the plate which could not be easily transported, 
and a certain very rich and costly table employ- 
ed for the service of the altar, and many sacred 
and expensive garments used by the highei 
priests in their ceremonies, had been left behind, 
as they could not be easily removed. Thest 
the abbot and the monks concealed in the most 
secure places that they could find, and then, 
clothing themselves in their priestly robes, they 
assembled in the chapel, and resumed their ex- 
rrcises of devotion. To be found in so sacred a 
place and engaged in so holy an avocation would 
have been a great protection from any Chris- 
tian soldiery ; but the monks entirely miscon- 
ceived the nature of the impulses by which hu- 
man nature is governed, in supposing that it 
would have any restraining influence upon the 
pagan Danes. The first thing the ferocious 
marauders did, on breaking into the sacred pre- 



100 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 860 

Slaughter of the abbot and monks. The boy Turgar 

oincts of the chapel, was to cut down the veil- 
erable abbot at the altar, in his sacerdotal robes, 
and then to push forward the work of slaying 
every other inmate of the abbey, feeble and 
helpless as they were. Only one was saved. 

This one was a boy, about ten years old. 
His name was Turgar. He was a handsome 
boy, and one of the Danish chieftains was 
struck with his countenance and air, in the 
midst of the slaughter, and took pity on him. 
The chieftain's name was Count Sidroo. Si- 
droc drew Turgar out of the immediate soene 
of danger, and gave him a Danish garment, di- 
recting him, at the same time, to throw aside 
his own, and then to follow him wherever he 
went, and keep close to his side, as if he were 
a Dane. The boy, relieved from his terrors by 
this hope of protection, obeyed implicitly. He 
followed Sidroc every where, and his life was 
saved. The Danes, after killing all the others, 
ransacked and plundered the monastery, broke 
)pen the tombs in their search for concealed 
treasures, and, after taking all that they could 
discover, they set the edifices on fire wherever 
they could find wood- work that would burn, and 
went away, leaving the bodies slowly burning 
in the grand and terrible funeral pile 



A..D. 860.] State of England. 101 

The Danes plunder another abbey. Escape of Turgar 

From Crowland the marauders proceeded, 
taking Turgar with them, to another large and 
wealthy abbey in the neighborhood, which they 
plundered and destroyed, as they had the abbey 
at Crowland. Sidroc made Turgar his own at- 
tendant, keeping him always near him. When 
the expedition had completed their second con- 
quest, they packed the valuables which they 
had obtained from both abbeys in wagons, and 
moved toward the south. It happened that 
some of these wagons were under Count Si- 
droc's charge, and were in the rear of the line of 
march. In passing a ford, the wheels of one of 
these rear wagons sank in the muddy bottom, 
and the horses, in attempting to draw the wagon 
out, became entangled and restive. While 
Sidroc's whole attention was engrossed by this 
difficulty, Turgar contrived to steal away un- 
observed. He hid himself in a neighboring 
wood, and, with a degree of sagacity and dis- 
cretion remarkable in a boy of his years, he con- 
trived to find his way back to the smoking ruins 
A his home at the Abbey of Crowland. 

The monks who had gone away to seek con- 
cealment at the cell of the anchorite had re- 
turned, and were at work among the smoking 
rums, saving what they could from the fire, and 



W2 Alfred the Great. \A.D. 860 

Story of King Edmund. The Dane Lothbroe 

gathering together the blackened remains of 
their brethren for interment. They chose one 
of the monks that had escaped to succeed the 
abbot who had been nairdered, repaired, so fai 
as they could, their ruined edifices, and mourn- 
fully resumed their functions as a religious com- 
munity. 

Many of the tales which the ancient chroni- 
clers tell of those times are romantic and incredi- 
ble ; they may have arisen, perhaps, in the first 
instance, in exaggerations of incidents and 
events whio*. really occurred, and were theii 
handed down from generation to generation by 
oral tradition, till they found historians to record 
them. The story of the martyrdom of King 
Edmund is of this character. Edmund was a 
sort of king over one of the nations of Anglo- 
Saxons called East Angles, who, as their name 
imports, occupied a part of the eastern portion 
of the island. Their particular hostility to Ed- 
mund was awakened, according to the story, in 
the following manner ■ 

There was a certain bold and adventurom 
Dane named Lothbroe, who one day took hi*- 
falcon on his arm and went out alone in a boat 
on the Baltic Sea, or in the straits connecting 
it with the German Ocean, intending to go to 



A..D. 860.] State of England 105 

rhe falcon. Lothbroo driven across the German Ocean 

a certain island and hunt. The falcon is a 
species of hawk which they were accustomed 
& train in those days, to attack and bring down 
Dirds from the air, and falconry was, as might 
have been expected, a very picturesque and ex- 
citing species of hunting. The game which 
Lothbroo was going to seek consisted of the wild 
fowl which frequents sometimes, in vast num- 
bers, the cliffs and shores of the islands in those 
seas. Before he reached his hunting ground, 
however, he was overtaken by a storm, and his 
boat was driven by it out to sea. Accustomed 
to all sorts of adventures and dangers by sea 
and by land, and skilled in every operation re- 
quired in all possible emergencies, Lothbroc 
contrived to keep his boat before the wind, and 
to bail out the water as fast as it came in, until 
at length, after being driven entirely across the 
German Ocean, he was thrown upon the En- 
glish shore, where, with his hawk still upon ;is 
arm, he safely landed. 

He knew that he was in the country of the 
most deadly foes of his nation and race, and ao* 
cordingly sought to conceal rather than to make 
known his arrival. He was, however, found, 
after a few days, wandering up and down in a 
solitary wood, and was conducted, together with 
ais nawk, to King Edmund. 



106 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 860 

Lothbroc taken Into Edmund's service. He is murdered by Beorn 

Edmund was so much pleased with his ail 
and bearing, and so astonished at the remarkable 
manner in which he had been brought to the 
English shore, that he gave him his life ; and 
soon discovering bis great knowledge and skill 
as a huntsman, ho received him into his own 
service, and treated him with great distinction 
and honor. In addition to his hawk, Lothbroo 
had a greyhound, so that he could hunt with the 
king in the fields as well as through the air 
The greyhound was ver}' strongly attached to 
his master. 

The king's chief huntsman at this time was 
Beorn, and Beorn soon became very envious and 
jealous of Lothbroc, on account of his superior 
power and s.dll, and of the honorable distinction 
which they procured for him. One day, when 
they two were hunting alone in the woods with 
their dogs, Beorn killed his rivai, and hid his 
body in a thicket. Beorn went home, his own 
dogs following him, while the greyhound re- 
mained to watch mournfully over the oody of 
his master. They asked Beorn what was be- 
come of Lothbroc, and he replied that he had 
gone off into the wood the day before, and he did 
uot know what had become of him. 

In the mean time, the greyhound remained 



A.D. 860.] State of England. 107 

Lothbroc's greyhound. Beorn'a punishment 

faithfully watching at the side of the body of 
his master until hunger compelled him to leave 
his post in search of food. He went home, ai:d, 
&s soon as his wants were supplied, he returned 
immediately to the wood again. This he did 
several days ; and at length his singular con- 
duct attracting attention, he was followed by 
some of the king's household, and the body of 
his murdered master was found. 

The guilt of the murder was with little diffi- 
culty brought home to Beorn ; and, as an appro- 
priate punishment for his cruelty to an unfor- 
tunate and homeless stranger, the king con- 
demned him to be put on boa*' 4 ! the same boat 
in which the ill-fated Lothbroc had made his 
perilous voyage, and pushed out to sea. 

The winds and storms — enxoring, it seems, 
into the plan, and influenced by the same prin- 
ciples of poetical justice as had governed the 
king — drove the boat, with its terrified mariner, 
back again across to the nouth of the Baltio, as 
they had brought Lothbroo to England. The 
boat was thrown upon the beach, en Lothbroc's 
family domain. 

Now Lothbroc had been, in his own country, 
a man of high rank and influence. He was of 
royal descent, and had many friends. He had 



108 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 860 

Lothbroc's sons. Beorn's treachery 

two sons, men of enterprise and energy ; and it 
so happened that the landing of Beorn took 
place so near to them, that the tidings soon 
came to their ears that their father's boat, in 
the hands of a Saxon stranger, had arrived on 
the coast. They immediately sought out the 
stranger, and demanded what had become of 
their father. Beorn, in order to hide his own 
guilt, fabricated a tale of Lothbroc's having 
been killed by Edmund, the king of the East 
Angles. The sons of the murdered Lothbroc 
were incensed at this news. They aroused theii 
countrymen by calling upon them every where 
to aid them in revenging their father's death 
A large naval force was accordingly collected, 
and a formidable descent made upon the English 
coast. 

Now Edmund, according to the story, was a 
humane and gentle-minded man, much more 
interested in deeds of benevolence and of piety 
than in warlike undertakings and exploits, and 
he was very far from being well prepared to 
meet this formidable foe. In fact, he sought 
refuge in a retired residence called Heglesdune. 
The Danes, having taken some Saxons captive 
in a city which they had sacked and destroyed, 
compelled them tc make known the place of 



A.D. 860.] State of England. 10& 

Edmund captured by the Danes. His martyrdom 

the king's retreat. Hinquar, the captain of the 
Danes, sent him a summons to come and sur- 
render both himself and all the treasures of hia 
kingdom. Edmund refused. Hinquar then 
.aid siege to the palace, and surrounded it ; and, 
finally, his soldiers, breaking in, put Edmund's 
attendants to death, and brought Edmund him 
self, bound, into Hinquar's presence. 

Hinquar decided that the unfortunate captive 
should die. He was, accordingly, first taken to 
a tree and scourged. Then he was shot at with 
arrows, until, as the account states, his body 
was so full of the arrows that remained in the 
flesh that there seemed to be no room for more 
During all this time Edmund continued to call 
upon the name of Christ, as if finding spiritual 
refuge and strength in the Redeemer in this his 
hour of extremity ; and although these ejacula- 
tions afforded, doubtless, great support and com- 
fort to him, they only served to irritate to a per- 
fect phrensy of exasperation his implacable pa> 
gan foes. They continued to shoot arrows intc 
him until he was dead, and then they cut off 
his head and went away, carrying the dissever- 
ed head with them. Their object was to pre- 
vent his friends from having the satisfaction of 
interring it with the body. They carried it tt 



110 Alfred the Great. [A D. 868 

Edmund's friends come from their hiding places His head found 

what they supposed a sufficient distance, and 
then threw it off into a wood by the way-side, 
where they supposed it could not easily be 
found. 

As soon, however, as the Danes had left the 
place, the affrighted friends and followers of Ed- 
mund came out, by degrees, from their retreats 
and hiding places. They readily found the 
dead body of their sovereign, as it lay, of course, 
where the cruel deed of his murder had been 
performed. They sought with mournful and 
anxious steps, here and there, all around, for the 
head, until at length, when they came into the 
wood where it was lying, they heard, as the 
historian who records these events gravely tes- 
tifies, a voice issuing from it, calling them, and 
directing their steps by the sound. They fol- 
lowed the voice, and, having recovered the head 
by means of this miraculous guidance, they 
buried it with the body.* 

* A great many other tales are told of the miraculous phe- 
nomena exhibited by the body of St. Edmund, which well 
llustrate the superstitious credulity of those times. One writ 
w says seriously that, when the head was found, a woif had 
t, holding it carefully in his paws, with all the gentleness and 
care that the most faithful dog would manifest in guarding a 
trust committed to him by his master. This wolf followed 
the funeral procession to the tomb where the body was de- 



A.D.S70.] State >f England. Ill 

Credulity of mankind. Commingling of piety and superstition 



It seems surprising to us that reasonable men 
should so readily believe such tales as these ; 
but there are, in all ages of the world, certain 
habits of belief, in conformity to which the 
whole community go together. We all believe 
whatever is in harmony with, or analogous to, 
jhe general type of faith prevailing in our own 
generation. Nobody could be persuaded now 
that a dead head could speak, or a wolf change 
his nature to protect it ; but thousands will 
credit a fortune-teller, or believe that a mesmer- 
ized patient can have a mental perception of 
scenes and occurrences a thousand miles away. 

There was a great deal of superstition in the 
days when Alfred was called to the throne, and 
there was also, with it, a great deal of genuine 
honest piety. The piety and the superstition, 
too, were inextricably intermingled and com- 
bined together. They were all Catholics then, 
yielding an implicit obedience to the Church of 
Rome, making regular contributions in money 
tc sustain the papal authority, and looking to 
Rome as the great and central point of Christian 
influence and power, and the object of supreme 

posited, and then disappeared. The head joined itself to the 
body again where it had been severed, leaving only a purple 
'ine to mark the place of separation. 



112 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 870 

Peter-pence. Veneration of the Catholic Church 

veneration. We have already seen that the 
Saxons had established a seminary at Rome, 
which King Ethelwclf, Alfred's father, rebuilt 
and re-endowed. One of the former Anglo- 
Saxon kings, too, had given a grant of one 
penny from every house in the kingdom to the 
successors of St. Peter at Rome, which tax, 
though nominally small, produced a very con- 
siderable sum in the aggregate, exceeding for 
many years the royal revenues of the kings of 
England. It continued to be paid down to the 
time of Henry VIII., when the reformation 
swept away that, and all the other national ob- 
ligations of England to the Catholic Church 
together. 

In the age of Alfred, however, there were no* 
only these public acts of acknowledgment rec- 
ognizing the papal supremacy, but there was 
a strong tide of personal and private feeling 
of veneration and attachment to the mother 
Church, of which it is hard for us, in the pres- 
ent divided state of Christendom, to conceive 
The religious thoughts and affections of every 
pious heart throughout the realm centered in 
Rome. Rome, too, was the scene of many 
miracles, by which the imaginations of the 
superstitious and of the truly devcut were' ex- 



A.D. 870.] State of England. 113 

ftwrvnlm. He is murdered by ordei of bis ststor 

cited, which impressed them with an idea of 
power in which they felt a sort of confiding 
sense of protection. This power was contin- 
aally interposing, now in one way and now in 
another, to protect virtue, to punish crime, and 
to testify to the impious and to the devout, to 
each in an appropriate way, that their respective 
deeds were the objects, according to their char 
acter, of the displeasure or of the approbation 
of Heaven. 

On one occasion, the following incident is 
said to have occurred. The narration of it will 
illustrate the ideas of the time. A child of 
about seven years old, named Kenelm, suc- 
ceeded to the throne in the Anglo-Saxon line. 
Being too young to act for himself, he was put 
under the charge of a sister, who was to act as 
regent until the boy became of age. The sister, 
ambitious of making the power thus delegated 
to her entirely her own, decided on destroying 
her brother. She commissioned a hired mur- 
derer to perpetrate the deed. The murderer 
took the child into a wood, killed him, and hid 
his body in a thicket, in a certain cow-pasture 
at a place called Clent. The sister then as- 
sumed the scepter in her own name, and sup- 
pressed all inquiries in respect to the fate of he? 
24—8 



114 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 870 

The dove and the writing. The body found 

brother ; and his murder might have remained 
forever undiscovered, had it not been miracu- 
lously revealed at Rome. 

A white dove flew into a church there one 
lay / and let fall upon the altar of St. Peter a 
paper, on which was written, in Anglo-Saxon 
characters, 

in dtlent <£oto*l)atrJ), Heneime fcfna beame, Uetfo unUtt 
STfcorne, tieaU bereabeti. 

For a time nobody could read the writing. 
At length an Anglo-Saxon saw it, and trans- 
lated it into Latin, so that the pope and aP 
others could understand it. The pope then 
sent a letter to the authorities in England, who 
made search and found the body. 

But we must end these digressions, which we 
have indulged thus far in order to give the 
reader some distinct conception of the ideas and 
habits of the times, and proceed, in the next 
chapter, to relate the events immediately con- 
nected with Alfred's accession to the throne. 



A..D. 871.] Alfred's Accession. 115 



I\ts Dane* at Reading. Situation at Reading 



Chapter VI. 

Alfred's Accession to the Throne 

\ T the battle in which Alfred's brother, 
-^*- Ethelred, whom Alfred succeeded on the 
throne, was killed, as is briefly mentioned at the 
olose of chapter fourth, Alfred himself, then a 
brave and energetic young man, fought by his 
side. The party of Danes whom they were con- 
tending against in this fatal fight was the same 
one that came out in the expedition organized 
by the sons of Lothbroc, and whose exploits in 
destroying monasteries and convents were de- 
scribed in the last chapter. Soon after the 
events there narrated, this formidable body of 
marauders moved westward, toward that part 
of the kingdom where the dominions more par- 
ticularly pertaining to the family of .Alfred lay. 
There was in those days a certain stronghold 
or castle on the River Thames, about forty miles 
west from London, which was not far from the 
confines of Ethelred's dominions. The large 
and populous town of Reading now stands upon 
the spot. It is at the confluence of the RiTei 



116 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 671 

The Danish castle. Ethelred marches against the Dane* 

Thames with the Kennet, a small branch of the 
Thames, which here flows into it from the south 
The spot, having the waters of the rivers for a 
defense upon two sides of it, was easily fortified 
A castle had been built there, and, as usual in 
such cases, a town had sprung up about the 
walls. 

The Danes advanced to this stronghold and 
took possession of it, and they made it for some 
time their head-quarters. It was at once the 
center from which they carried on their enter- 
prises in all directions about the island, and the 
refuge to which they could always retreat when 
defeated and pursued. In the possession of such 
a fastness, they, of course, became more formi- 
dable than ever. King Ethelred determined to 
dislodge them. He raised, accordingly, as large 
a force as his kingdom would furnish, and, taking 
his brother Alfred as his second in command, he 
advanced toward Reading in a very resolute and 
determin vet manner. 

He first encountered a large body of the Danes 
^ ho were out on a marauding excursion. This 
party consisted only of a small detachment, the 
main body of the army of the Danes having been 
left at Reading to strengthen and complete the 
fortifications. They were digging a trench from 



A.D.871.J Alfred's Accession. 117 

I*he Danes fortify their castle. They are defeated 

river to river, so as completely to insulate the 
castle, and make it entirely inaccessible on ei- 
ther side except by boats or a bridge. With the 
earth thrown out of the trench they were mak- 
ing an embankment on the Inner side, so that 
an enemy, after crossing the ditch, would have 
a steep ascent to climb, defended too, as of 
course it would be in such an emergency, by 
long lines of desperate men upon the top, hurl- 
ing at the assailants showers of javelins and ar- 
rows. 

While, therefore, a considerable portion of the 
Danes were at work within and around their 
castle, to make it as nearly as possible impreg- 
nable as a place of defense, the detachment 
above referred to had gone forth for plunder, 
under the command of some of the bolder and 
more adventurous spirits in the horde. This 
party Ethelred overtook. A furious battle was 
fought. The Danes were defeated, and driven 
off the ground. They lied toward Reading. 
Ethelred and Alfred pursued them. The vari- 
ous parties of Danes that we»re outside of the 
fortifications, employed in completing the out- 
works, or encamped in the neighborhood, were 
surprised and slaughtered ; or, at least, vast 
numbers of them were killed, and the rest re- 



118 Alfred the Great [A.D. 871. 



Defeat of the Saxons Preparations for another battle, 

treated within the works — all maddened at their 
defeat, and burning with desire for revenge. 

The Saxons were not strong enough to dis- 
possess them of their fastness. On the contra- 
ry, in a few days, the Danes, having matured 
their plans, made a desperate sally against the 
Saxons, and, after a very determined and ob- 
stinate conflict, they gained the victory, and 
drove the Saxons off the ground. Some of the 
leading Saxon chieftains were killed, and the 
whole country was thrown into great alarm at 
the danger which was impending, that the 
Danes would soon gain the complete and un- 
disputed possession of the whole land. 

The Saxons, however, were not yet prepared 
to give up the struggle. They rallied their 
forces, gathered new recruits, reorganized theii 
ranks, and made preparations for another strug- 
gle. The Danes, too, feeling fresh strength 
and energy in consequence of their successes, 
formed themselves in battle array, and, leaving 
their strong-hold, they marched out into the 
oj¥3n country in pursuit of their foe. The two 
armies gradually approached each other and 
prepared for battle. Every thing portended a 
terrible conflict which was to be, in faot, the 
great final struggle. 



A.D.871.] Alfred's Accession. 119 

JSaoeedune. The night before the battle 

The place where the armies met was called 
in those times ^Sscesdune, which means Ash- 
dcwn It was. in fact, a hill-side covered with 
ash trees. The name has become shortened 
and softened in the course of the ten centuries 
which have intervened since this celebrated bat- 
tle, into Aston ; if, indeed, as is generally sup- 
posed, the Aston of the present day is the local- 
ity of the ancient battle. 

The armies came into the vicinity of each 
other toward the close of the day. They were 
both eager for the contest, or, at least, they pre- 
tended to be so, but they waited until the morn- 
ing. The Danes divided their forces into two 
bodies. Two kings commanded one division, 
and certain chieftains, called earls, directed the 
other. King Ethelred undertook to meet this 
order of battle by a corresponding distribution 
of his own troops, and he gave, accordingly, to 
Alfred the command of one division, while he 
himself was to lead the other. All things being 
thus arranged, the hum and bustle of the two 
gTeat encampments subsided at last, at a late 
hour, as the men sought repose under their rude 
tents, in preparation for the fatigues and expo- 
sures of the coming day. Some slept ; others 
watched restlessly, and talked together, sleep- 



120 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 871 

Alfred musters his men. Etheired'i religious serrice* 

less under the influence of that strange excite- 
ment, half exhilaration and half fear, which pre- 
vails in a camp on the eve of a battle. The 
camp fires burned brightly all the night, and 
the sentinels kept vigilant watch, expecting ev- 
ery moment some sudden alarm. 

The night passed quietly away. Ethelred 
and Alfred both arose early. Alfred went out 
to arouse and muster the men in his division 
of the encampment, and to prepare for battle. 
Ethelred, on the other hand, sent for his priest, 
and, assembling the officers in immediate at- 
tendance upon him, commenced divine service 
in his tent — the service of the mass, according 
to the forms and usages which, even in tha^ 
early day, were prescribed by the Catholio 
Church. Alfred was thus bent on immediate 
and energetic action, while Ethelred thought 
that the hour for putting forth the exertion of 
human strength did not come until time had 
been allowed for completing, in the most delib- 
erate and solemn manner, the work of implor- 
ing the protection of Heaven. 

Ethelred seems by his conduct on this occa- 
sion to have inherited from his father, even 
more than Alfred, the spirit of religious devo- 
tion at least so far as the strict and faithfb' 



A.D. 871] Alfred's Accession. 121 

Reason for divine service. The war a religious one 

observance of religious forms was concerned 
There was, it is true, a particular reason in thi& 
case why the forms of divine service should be 
faithfully observed, and that is, that the war 
was considered in a great measure a religious 
war. The Danes were pagans. The Saxons 
were Christians. In making their attacks upon 
the dominions of Ethelred, the ruthless invaders 
were animated by a special hatred of the name 
of Christ, and they evinced a special hostility 
toward every edifice, or institution, or observ- 
ance which bore the Christian name. The 
Saxons, therefore, in resisting them, felt that 
they were not only fighting for their own pos- 
sessions and for their own lives, but that they 
were defending the kingdom of God, and that 
he, looking down from his throne in the heavens, 
regarded them as the champions of his cause ; 
and, consequently, that he would either protect 
them in the struggle, or, if they fell, that he 
would receive them to mansions of special glory 
and happiness in heaven, as martyrs who had 
shed their blood in his service and for his glory. 
Taking this view of the subject, Ethelred, 
instead of going out to battle at the early dawn, 
collected his officers into his tent, and formed 
them into a religious congregation. Alfred, od 



122 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 871. 

Alfred' 8 impetuttflity. His great ability 

the other hand, full of impetuosity and ardor, 
was arousing his men, animating them by his 
words of encouragement and by the influence 
of his example, and making, as energetically as 
possible, all the preparations necessary for the 
approaching conflict. 

In fact, Alfred, though his brother was king, 
and he himself only a lieutenant general under 
him, had been accustomed to take the lead ie 
all the military operations of the army, on ac- 
count of the superior energy, resolution, and 
tact which he evinced, even in this early period 
of his life. His brothers, though they retained 
the scepter, as it fell successively into their 
hands, relied mainly on his wisdom and cour- 
age in all their efforts to defend it, and Ethelred 
may have been somewhat more at his ease, in 
listening to the priest's prayers in his tent, from 
knowing that the arrangements for marshaling 
and directing a large part of the force were in 
such good hands. 

The two encampments of Alfred and EtheL 
red seem to have been at some little distanco 
from each other. Alfred was impatient at Eth- 
elred's delay. He asked the reason for it. 
They told him that Ethelred was attending 
mass, and that he had said he should on no ac- 



A,D. 871.] Alfred's Accessions 12ii 

Battle of vEscesduae Flight of the Danes 

count leave his tent until the service was con- 
cluded. Alfred, in the mean time, took pos- 
session of a gentle elevation of land, which now 
would give him an advantage in the conflict. 
A single thorn-tree, growing there alone, marked 
*he spot. The Danes advanced to attack him, 
expecting that, as he was not sustained by Eth- 
eired's division of the army, he would be easily 
overpowered and driven from his post. 

Alfred himself felt an extreme and feverish 
anxiety at Ethelred's delay. He fought, how- 
ever, with the greatest determination and brav- 
ery. The thorn-tree continued to be the center 
of the conflict for a long time, and, as the morn- 
ing advanced, it became more and more doubt- 
ful how it would end. At last, Ethelred, having 
finished his devotional services, came forth from 
his camp at the head of his division, and ad- 
vanced vigorously to his faltering brother's aid. 
This soon decided the contest. The Danes were 
overpowered and put to flight. They fled at 
first in all directions, wherever each separate 
band saw the readiest prospect of escape from 
the immediate vengeance of their pursuers. 
They soon, however, all began with one accord 
to seek the roads which would conduct them to 
their stronghold at Reading. They were madly 



124 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 871 

Results of the battle, Alfred and Etbelred 

pursued, and massacred as they fled, by Alfred'* 
and Ethelred's army. Vast numbers fell. The 
remnant secured their retreat, shut themselves 
ap within their walls, and began to devote their 
eager and earnest attention to the work of re- 
pairing and making good their defenses. 

This victory changed for the time being the 
whole face of affairs, and led, in various ways, 
to very important consequences, the most im- 
portant of which was, as we shall presently see, 
that it was the means indirectly of bringing 
Alfred soon to the throne. As to the cause of 
the victory, or, rather, the manner in which it 
was accomplished, the writers of the times give 
very different accounts, according as their re- 
spective characters incline them to commend, in 
man, a feeling of quiet trust and confidence in 
God when placed in circumstances of difficulty 
or danger, or a vigorous and resolute exertion 
j)f his own powers. Alfred looked for deliver- 
ance to the determined assaults and heavy blows 
which he could bring to bear upon his pagan 
enemies with weapons of steel around the thorn- 
tree in the field. Ethelred trusted to his hope 
of obtaining, by his prayers in his tent, the ef- 
fectual protection of Heaven ; and they who have 
written the story differ, as they who read it will, 



A.D. 871.] Alfred's Accession. 125 

rbe old chronicles. The locality of the battle. 

on the question to whose instrumentality the 
victory is to be ascribed. One says that Alfred 
gained it by his sword. Another, that Alfred 
exerted his strength and his valor in vain, and 
was saved from defeat and destruction only by 
the intervention of Ethelred, bringing with him 
the blessing of Heaven. 

In fact, the various narratives of these ancient 
events, which are found at the present day in the 
old chronicles that record them, differ always 
very essentially, not only in respect to matters 
of opinion, and to the point of view in which 
they are to be regarded, but also in respect to 
questions of fact. Even the place where this 
battle was fought, notwithstanding what we 
have said about the derivation of Aston from 
iEscesdune, is not absolutely certain. There 
is in the same vicinity another town, called Ash- 
bury, which claims the honor. One reason for 
supposing that this last is the true locality is 
that there are the ruins of an ancient monu- 
ment here, which, tradition says, was a monu- 
ment built to commemorate the death of a Dan* 
ish chieftain slain here by Alfred. Theie is 
also in the neighborhood another very singular 
monument, called The White Horse, which also 
nas the reputation of having been fashioned to 



126 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 871 

The White Hone, Death of Ethelred 

commemorate Alfred's victories. The White 
Horse is a rude representation of a horse, formed 
by cutting away the turf from the steep slope 
of a hill, so as to expose a portion of the white 
surface of the chalky rock below of such a form 
that the figure is called a horse, though they 
who see it seem to think it might as well have 
been called a dog. The name, however, of The 
White Horse has come down with it from an- 
cient times, and the hill on which it is cut is 
known as The White Horse Hill. Some ingeni 
ous antiquarians think they find evidence that 
this gigantic profile was made to commemorate 
the victory obtained by Alfred and Ethelred over 
the Danes at the ancient iEscesdune. 

However this may be, and whatever view we 
may take of the comparative influence of Al- 
fred's energetic action and Ethelred's religious 
faith in the defeat of the Danes at this great 
battle, it is certain that the results of it were 
very momentous to all concerned. Ethelred 
received a wound, either in this battle or in 
some of the smaller contests and collisions 
which followed it, under the effects of which he 
pined and lingered for some months, and then 
died. Alfred, by his decision and courage on 
the dav of the battle, and bv the ardor and res- 



A.D.871.J Alfred's Accession. 127 

Alfred's popularity. He is selected to succeed Ktbelred 

olution with which he pressed all the subse- 
quent operations during the period of Ethel- 
red's decline, made himself still more conspicu- 
ous in the eyes of his countrymen than he had 
ever been before. In looking forward to Ethel- 
red's approaching death, the people, according- 
ly, began to turn theit-ey^s-4©-^4ii*ed^ja^Jns 
successor. There were children of some of his 
older brothers living at that time, and they, ac- 
cording to all received principles of hereditary 
right, would naturally succeed to the throne ; 
but the nation seems to have thought that the 
crisis was too serious, and the dangers which 
threatened their country were too imminent, to 
justify putting any child upon the throne. The 
accession of one of those children would have 
been the signal for a terrible and protracted 
struggle among powerful relatives and friends 
for the regency during the minority of the 
youthful sovereign, and this, while the Danes 
remained in their strong-hold at Reading, in 
daily expectation of new re-enforcements from 
beyond the sea, would have plunged the coun- 
try in hopeless ruin. They turned their eyes 
toward Alfred, therefore, as the sovereign to 
whom they were to bow so goon as Ethelred 
should cease to breathe. 



128 Alfred the Great. [A.D.871 

The Danes strengthen themselves. Their recc e— 

Jn the mean time, the Danes, far from being 
subdued by the adverse turn of fortune which 
had befallen them, strengthened themselves in 
their fortress, made desperate sallies from their 
intrenchments, attacked their foes on every pos- 
sible occasion, and kept the country in contin- 
ual alarm. They at length so far recruited 
their strength, and intimidated and discouraged 
their foes, whose king and nominal leader, Eth- 
elred, was now less able than ever to resist 
them, as to take the field again. They fought 
more pitched battles ; and, though the Saxon 
chroniclers who narrate these events are very 
reluctant to admit that the Saxons were really 
vanquished in these struggles, they allow that 
the Danes kept the ground which they success- 
ively took post upon, and the discouraged and 
disheartened inhabitants of the country were 
forced to retire. 

In the mean time, too, new parties of Danes 
were continually arriving on the coast, and 
spreading themselves in marauding and plun- 
dering excursions over the country. The Danes 
at Reading were re-enforced by these? oands, 
which made the conflict between them and Eth- 
eired's forces more unequal still Alirea did 
his utmost to resist the tide of ill fortune, with 
the limited and doubtful authority which he 



\.D. 671.] Alfred's Accession 129 

)eath of Ethelred. His burial at Wimborne 

held ; but all was in vain. E their ed, worn 
down, probably, with the anxiety and depres- 
sion which the situation of his kingdom brought 
upon him, lingered for a time, and then died, 
and Alfred was by general consent called to 
^hejhrpjie. "~ This was m the year_87X— 

It was a matter of moment to find a safe and 
secure place of deposit for the body of E their ed, 
who, as a Christian slain in contending with 
pagans, was to be considered a martyr. His 
memory was honored as that of one who had 
sacrificed his life in defense of the Christian 
faith. They knew very well that even his life- 
less remains would not be safe from the venge- 
ance of his foes unless they were placed effect- 
ually beyond the reach of these desperate ma- 
rauders. There was, far to the south, in Dor- 
setshire, on the southern coast of England, a 
monastery, at Wimborne, a very sacred s^ot. 
worthy to be selected as a place of royal sepul 
ture. The spot has continued sacred to tb.a 
present day ; and it has now uoon the site, as 
is supposed, of the ancient monastery, a grand 
cathedral church or minster, full of monuments 
ef former days, and impressing all beholders 
with its solemn architectural grandeur. Here 

they conveyed the body of Ethelred and inter 

24—9 



VSQ Alfred the Great. [AD. 871 

The inscription. Doubts in regard to Ethelred'B death. 

red it. It was a place of sacred seclusion, where 

there reigned a solemn stillness and awe, which 

no Christian hostility would ever have dared 

to disturb. The sacrilegious paganism of the 

Danes, however, would have respected it but 

little, if they had ever found access to it ; out 

they did not. The body of Ethelred remained 

undisturbed ; and, many centuries afterward, 

some travelers who visited the spot recorded the 

fact that there was a monument there with this 

inscription : 

"IN HOC LOCO QUIESC'T CORPUS ETHELRED! 
REGIS WEST SAXONUM, MARTYR1S, QUI ANNO DOM 
INI DCCCLXXI., XXIII. APRILIS, PER MANUS DANO 
RUM PAGANORUM, OCCUBUFIV 

Such is the c« unmonly received opinion of the 
death of Ethelred. And yet some of the crit- 
ical historians of modern times, who find cause 
to doubt or disbelieve a very large portion of 
what is stated in ancient records, attempt to 
prove that Ethelred was not killed by the Dane* 
at all, but that he died of the plague, which 
terrible disease was at that time prevailing iri 
that part of England. At all events, he died, 
and Alfred, his brother, was called to reign in 
his stead. 

• " Here rests the body of Ethelred, king of West Saxony 
tbe Martyr, who died by the hands of the pagan Danes, r* 
\w the vp^r nf our T,nrr! 871 " 



A.P. 871.J Reverses UU 

41fred'i reluctance to receive the crows. Hi* nephew 



Chapteb VII. 

Reverses. 

FI^HE historians say that Alfred was very un- 
-*■ willing' to assume the crown when the 
death of Ethelred presented it to him. If it 
had been an object of ambition or desire, there 
would probably have been a rival claimant, 
whose right would perhaps have proved supe- 
rior to his own, since it appears that one or 
nore of the brothers who reigned before him 
left a son, whose claim to the inheritance, if 
the inheritance had been worth claiming, would 
have been stronger than that of their uncle 
The son of the oldest son takes precedence al 
ways of the brother, for hereditary rights, lika 
water, never move laterally so long as they can 
continue to descend. 

The nobles, however, and chieftains, and all 
the leading powers of the kingdom of Wessex, 
whish was the particular kingdom which de- 
scended from Alfred's ancestors, united to urge 
Alfred to take the throne. His father had, in- 
deed, designated him, as the successor of hi}* 



L3£ Alfred the Great. [AD. 871 

Ethelred's funeral Coronation of Alfred at Winchester 

brothers by his will, though how far a monarch 
may properly control by his will the disposal 
of his realm, is a matter of great uncertainty 
Alfred yielded at length to these solicitations, 
and determined on assuming the sovereign 
power. He first went to Wimborne to attend 
to the funeral solemnities which were to be ob- 
served at his royal brother's burial. He then 
went to Winchester, which, as well as Wim- 
borne, is in the south of England, to be crowned 
and anointed king. Winchester was, even in 
those early days, a great ecclesiastical center. 
It was for some time the capital of the West 
Saxon realm. It was a very sacred place, and 
the crown was there placed upon Alfred's head, 
with the most imposing and solemn ceremonies. 
It is a curious and remarkable fact, that the 
spots which were consecrated in those early 
days by the religious establishments of the times, 
have preserved in almost every case their sacred- 
ness to the present day. Winchester is now 
famed all over England for its great Cathedral 
ohurch, and the vast religious establishment 
which has its seat there — the annual revenues 
and expenditures of which far exceed those of 
many of the states of this Union. The income 
of the bishop alone was fur many years double 




Coronation Chajul 



Al.D. 871.] Reverses. 135 

rhe Bishop of Winchester Alfred takes the field against the Dane* 

that of the salary of the President of the United 
States. The Bishop of Winchester is widely 
celebrated, therefore, all over England, for his 
wealth his ecclesiastical power, the architec- 
tural grandeur of the Cathedral church, and the 
wealth and importance of the college of eccle- 
siastics over which he presides. 

It was in Winchester that Alfred was crown- 
ed. As soon as the ceremony was performed, 
he took the field, collected his forces, and went 
to meet the Danes again. He found the coun- 
try in a most deplorable condition. The Danes 
sad extended and strengthened their positions. 
They had got possession of many of the towns, 
and. not content with plundering castles and 
abbeys, they had seized lands, and were be- 
ginning to settle upon them, as if they intended 
to make Alfred's new kingdom their permanent 
abode. The forces of the Saxons, on the other 
hand, were scattered and discouraged. There 
seemed no hope left to them of making head 
against their pestiferous invaders. If they were 
defeated, their cruel conquerors showed no mod 
eration and no mercy in their victory ; and if 
they conquered, it was only to suppress for a 
moment one horde, with a certainty of being 
attacked immediately by another, more recently 



136 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 871 

Battle at Wilton. Defeat of Alfred 

arrived, and more determined and relentless 
than those before them. 

Alfred succeeded, however, by means of the 
influence of his personal character, and by the 
very active and efficient exertions that he made ; 
in concentrating what forces remained, and in 
preparing for a renewal of the contest. The 
first great battle that was fought was at Wilt- 
on. This was within a month of his accession 
to the throne. The battle was very obstinately 
fought ; at the first onset Alfred's troops carried 
all before them, and there was every prospect 
that he would win the day. In the end, how- 
ever, the tide of victory turned in favor of the 
Danes, and Alfred and his troops were driven 
from the field. There was an immense loss on 
both sides. In fact, both armies were, for the 
time, pretty effectually disabled, and each seems 
to have shrunk from a renewal of the contest 
Instead, therefore, of fighting again, the two 
commanders entered into negotiations. Hubba 
was the name of the Danish chieftain. In the 
end, he made a treaty with Alfred, by which he 
agreed to retire from Alfred's dominions, and 
leave him in peace, provided that Alfred would 
not intenerc with him in his wars in any othei 
part of Eng.and. Alfred's kingdom was We* 



A.D. 872.| Reverses. 137 

Treaty with the Danes. They march into Merci*. 

sex Besides Wessex, there was Essex, Mercia^ 
and Northumberland. Hubba and his Danes 
finding that Alfred was likely to prove too formi- 
dable an antagonist for them easily to subdue, 
thought it would be most prudent to give up 
one kingdom out of the four, on condition of not 
having Alfred to contend against in their depre* 
dations upon the other three. They according- 
ly made the treaty, and the Danes withdrew. 
They evacuated their posts and strong-holds in 
Wessex, and went down the Thames to Lon- 
don, which was in Mercia, and there commenced 
a new course of conquest and plunder, where 
they had no such powerful foe to oppose them. 
Buthred was the king of Mercia. He could 
not resist Hubba and his Danes alone, and he 
could not now have Alfred's assistance. Alfred 
was censured very much at the time, and has 
been condemned often since, for having thus 
made a separate peace for himself and his own 
immediate dominions, and abandoned 1 as nat« 
aral allies and friends, the people of the othei 
Saxon kingdoms. To make a peace with sav< 
age and relentless pagans, on the express con 
dition of leaving his fellow-Christian neighbors 
at their mercy, has been considered ungenerous, 
at least, if it was not unjust. On the othei 



13S Alfred the Great. [A.D. 874. 

Buthred' s misfortunes. He buys off tbft Dane* 

hand, those who vindicate his conduct maintain 
that it was his duty to secure the peace and 
welfare of his own realm, leaving other sover- 
eigns to take care of theirs ; and that he w< uld 
have done very wrong to sacrifice the property 
and lives of his own immediate subjects to a 
mere point of honor, when it was utterly out of 
his power to protect them and his neighbors too. 
However this may be, Buthred, finding that 
he could not have Alfred's aid, and that he 
could not protect his kingdom by any force 
which he could himself bring into the field, tried 
negotiations too, and he succeeded in buying 
off the Danes with money. He paid them a 
krge sum, on condition of their leaving his do- 
minions finally and forever, and not coming to 
molest him any more. Such a measure as this 
is always a very desperate and hopeless one. 
Buying off robbers, or beggars, or false accus- 
ers, or oppressors of any kind, is only to encour- 
age them to come again, after a brief interval, 
inder some frivolous pretext, with fresh de- 
mands or new oppressions, that they may be 
oought off again with higher pay. At least 
Buthred found it so in this case. Hubba went 
northward for a time, into the kingdom of Nor- 
thumberland, and, after various conquests and 



A.D. 874.1 Reverses. 139 

Buthred's unhappy end. Ceolwulf 

plunderings there, he came back again into 
Mercia, on the plea that there was a scarcity 
of provisions in the northern kingdom, and he 
was obliged to come back. Buthred bought 
him off again with a larger sum of money. 
Hubba scarcely left the kingdom this time, but 
spent the money with his army, in carousings 
and excesses, and then went to robbing and 
plundering as before. Buthred, at last, reduced 
to despair, and seeing no hope of escape from 
the terrible pest with which his kingdom was 
infested, abandoned the country and escaped to 
Rome. They received him as an exiled mon- 
arch, in the Saxon school, where he soon after 
died a prey to grief and despair. 

The Danes overturned what remained of 
Buthred's government. They destroyed a fa- 
mous mausoleum, the ancient burial place of 
the Mercian kings. This devastation of the 
abooes of th" ^ead was a sort of recreation — a 
savage amusement, to vary the more serious and 
dangerous excitements attending their contest* 
with the living. They found an officer of 
Buthred's government named Ceolwulf, who, 
though a Saxon, was willing, through his love 
of place and power, to accept of the office of 
king in subordination to the Danes, and hold 



140 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 874 



Halfden arrives In England. Alfred'! castl<> at Wareham. 

it at their disposal, paying an annual tribute 
to them. Ceolwulf was execrated by his coun- 
trymen, who considered him a traitor. He, ic 
bis turn, oppressed and tyrannized over them. 

In the mean time, a new leader, with a fresh 
horde of Danes, had landed in England. His 
name was Halfden. Halfden came with a con- 
siderable fleet of ships, and, after landing his 
men, and performing various exploits and en 
countering various adventures in other parts of 
England, he began to turn his thoughts toward 
Alfred's dominions. Alfred did not pay par- 
ticular attention to Halfden's movements at 
first, as he supposed that his treaty with Hubba 
had bound the whole nation of the Danes not 
to encroach upon his realm, whatever they 
might do in respect to the other Saxon king- 
doms. Alfred had a famous castle at Ware- 
ham, on the southern coast of the island. It 
was situated on a bay which lies in what is now 
Dorsetshire. This castle was the strongest 
place in his dominions. It was garrisoned and 
guarded, but not with any special vigilance, as 
no one expected an attack upon it. Halfden 
brought his fleet to the southern shore of the 
island, and, organizing an expedition there, he 
put to sea, and before any one suspected his de- 



AJL) 874.] Reverses. 143 

Wareham Castle taken by Halfden. Contests and truce* 

sign, he entered the bay, surprised and attacked 
Wareham Castle, and took it. Alfred and the 
people of his realm were not only astonished and 
tlarmed at the loss of the castle, but they were 
illed with indignation at the treachery of the 
i )anes in violating their treaty by attacking it. 
Halfden said, however, that he was an inde- 
pendent chieftain, acting in his own name, and 
was not bound at all by any obligations entered 
into by Hubba ! 

There followed after this a series of contests 
and truces, during which treacherous wars al- 
ternated with still more treacherous and illu- 
sive periods of peace, neither party, on the 
whole, gaining any decided victory. The 
Danes, at one time, after agreeing upon a ces- 
sation of hostilities, suddenly fell upon a large 
squadron of Alfred's horse, who, relying on the 
truce, were moving across the country too much 
off their guard. The Danes dismounted and 
dr s^e off the men, and seized the horses, and 
ihus provided themselves with cavalry, a spe- 
cies of force which it is obvious they could not 
easiiy bring, in any ships which they could then 
construct, across the German Ocean. Without 
waiting for Alfred to recover from the surprise 
and consternation which this unexpected treaoh- 



142 Alfred the Great. [AD 874 

The town of Exeter. It is taken by the Dane* 

ery occasioned, the newly-mounted troop of 
Danes rode rapidly along the southern coast of 
England till they came to the town of Exeter 
Its name was in those days Exancester. It 
was then, as it is now, a very important town. 
It has since acquired a mournful celebrity as 
the place of refuge, and the scene of suffering 
of Queen Henrietta Maria, the mother of 
Charles the Second.* The loss of this place was 
a new and heavy cloud over Alfred's prospects 
It placed the whole southern coast of his realm 
in the hands of his enemies, and seemed to por- 
tend for the whole interior of the country a pe- 
riod of hopeless and irremediable calamity. 

It seems, too, from various unequivocal state- 
ments and allusions contained in the narratives 
of the times, that Alfred did not possess, during 
this period of his reign, the respect and affection 
of his subjects. He is accused, or, rather, nut- 
directly accused, but spoken of as generally 
known to be guilty of many faults which alien 
ated the hearts of his countrymen from him. and 
prepared them to consider his calamities as the 
judgments of Heaven. He was young and ar- 
dent, full of youthful impetuosity and fire, and 

* For an account of Henrietta'8 adventures and suffering! 
»t K*eter. see the History of Charles II., chap, ni 



A.D 874.] Reverses. 14? 

Serious charges against Alfred Love of pleasure 

was elated at his elevation to the throne ; and, 
during the period while the Danes left him in 
peace, under the treaties he had made with 
Hubba, he gave himself up to pleasure, and not 
always to innocent pleasure. They charged 
him, too, with being tyrannical and oppressive 
in his government, being so devoted to gratify- 
ing his own ambition and love of personal indul- 
gence that he neglected his government, sac- 
rificed the interests and the welfare of his sub- 
jects, and exercised his regal powers in a very 
despotic and arbitrary manner. 

It is very difficult to decide, at this late day 
how far this disposition to find fault with Al- 
fred's early administration of his government 
arose from, or was aggravated by, the misfor- 
tunes and calamities which befell him. On the 
one hand, it would not be surprising if, young, 
and arduous, and impetuous as he was at thi? 
period of his life, he should have fallen into the 
errors and faults which youthful monarchs are 
very prone to commit on being suddenly raised 
to power. But then, on the other hand, men 
are prone, in all ages of the world, and most 
especially in such rude and uncultivated times 
as these were, to judge military and govern- 
mental action by the sole criterion of «uoc«s» 



144 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 874 

6aint Neot He reproaches Alfred with his misdeeds 

Thus, when they found that Alfred's measures, 
one after another, failed in protecting his coun- 
try, that the impending calamities burst sue- 
sessively upon them, notwithstanding all Al- 
fred's efforts to avert them, it was natural that 
they should look at and exaggerate his faults, 
and charge all their national misfortunes to the 
Influence of them. 

There was a certain Saint Neot, a kinsman 
and religious counselor of Alfred, the history 
of whose life was afterward written by the 
Abbot of Crowland, the monastery whose de- 
struction by the Danes was described in a former 
chapter. In this narrative it is said that Neot 
often rebuked Alfred in the severest terms for 
his sinful course of life, predicting the most fatal 
consequences if he did not reform, and using 
language which only a very culpable degree of 
remissness and irregularity could justify. ' ' You 
glory," said he, one day, when addressing the 
king, " in your pride and power, and are de- 
termined and obdurate in your iniquity. But 
there is a terrible retribution in store for you 
I entreat you to listen to my counsels, amend 
your life, and govern your people with modera- 
tion and justice, instea 1 of tyranny and oppres- 
sion, and thus avert if you can, before it is toe 
late, the impending: judgments of Heaven " 



A.D.875.J Reverses. 14£ 

Justice of Neot's reproaches. Alfred's early sins atoned for. 

Such language as this it is obvious that only 
a very serious dereliction of duty on Alfred'? 
part could call for or justify ; but, whatever he 
may have done to deserve it, his offenses were 
so fully expiated by his subsequent sufferings, 
and he atoned for them so nobly, too, by the 
wisdom, the prudence, the faithful and devoted 
patriotism of his later career, that mankind 
have been disposed to pass by the faults of his 
early years without attempting to scrutinize 
them too closely. The noblest human spirits 
are always, in some periods of their existence, 
or in seme aspects of their characters, strange- 
ly weakened by infirmities and frailties, and 
deformed by sin This is human nature. We 
like to imagine *hat we find exceptions, and to 
see specimens of moral perfection in our friends 
or in the historical characters whose general 
course of action we admire ; but there are nc 
exceptions. To err and to sin, at some time? 
and in some ways, is the common, universal, 
and inevitable lot of humanity. 

At the time when Halfden and his followers 
seized Wareham Castle and Exeter, Alfred 
had been several years upon the throne, during 
which time these derelictions from duty toot 
plaoe, so far as they existed at all. But now. 
24—10 



Mfi Alfred the (treat. [A.D 875 



Alfred arouses himself. Convenes an assembly of chlefB and noble* 



alarmed at the imminence of the impending 
danger, which threatened not only the welfare 
of his people, but his own kingdom and even his 
life — for one Saxon monarch had been driven 
from his dominions, as we have seen, and had 
died a miserable exile at Rome — Alfred aroused 
himself in earnest to the work of regaining nis 
lost influence among his people, and recovering 
their alienated affections. 

He accordingly, as his first step, convened a 
great assembly of the leading chieftains and 
noblemen of the realm, and made addresses to 
them, in which he urged upon them the immi- 
nence of the danger which threatened their com- 
mon country, and pressed them to unite vigor 
ously and energetically with him to contend 
against their common foe. They must make 
great sacrifices, he said, both of their comfort 
and ease, as well as of their wealth, to resist 
successfully so imminent a danger. He sum 
moned them to arms, and urged them to con- 
tributs the means necessary to pay the expense 
of a vigorous prosecution of the war. Thes* 
harangues, and the ardor and determination 
which Alfred manifested himself at the time of 
making them, were successful. The nation 
aroused itself to new exertions, and for a tim« 



A.D. S75.J Reverses. j.49 

AJIred builds a fleet Difficulty of prv.vrmg seamen 

there was a prospect that the country would be 
saved. 

Among the other measures to which Alfred 
resorted in this emergency was the attempt to 
encounter the Danes upon their own element 
by building and equipping a fleet of ships, with 
which to proceed to sea, in order to meet and 
attack upon the water certain new bodies of in- 
vaders, who were on the way to join the Danes 
already on the island — coming, as rumor said, 
along the southern shore. In attempting to 
build up a naval power, the greatest difficulty, 
always, is to provide seamen. It is much eas- 
ier to build ships than to train sailors. To 
man his little fleet, Alfred had to enlist such 
half-savage foreigners as could be found in th« 
ports, and even pirates, as was said, whom he 
induced to enter his service, promising them 
pay, and such plunder as they could take from 
the enemy. These attempts of Alfred to build 
and man a fleet are considered the first rude be- 
ginnings from which the present vast edifice of 
British naval power took its origin. When the 
fleet was ready to put to sea, the people throng- 
ed the shores, watching its movements with thf» 
atmost curiosity and interest, earnestly hoping 
that it might be successful in its contests with 



150 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 875. 



8nce*^e ;f Alfred's fleet. Succession of battles and treaties 

the more tried and experienced armaments with 
which it would have to contend. 

Alfred was, in fact, successful in the first en- 
terprises which he undertook with his ships. 
He encountered a fleet of the Danish ships in 
the Channel, and defeated them. His fleet cap- 
tured, moreover, one of the largest of the ves- 
sels of the enemy ; and, with what would be 
the ught in our day unpardonable cruelty, they 
threw the sailors and soldiers whom they found 
on Duard into the sea, and kept the vessel. 

After all, however, Alfred gained no coi* 
elusive and decisive victory over his foes. They 
were too numerous, too scattered, and too firmly 
seated in the various districts of the island, of 
some of which they had been in possession for 
many years. Time passed on, battles were 
fought, treaties of peace were made, oaths were 
taken, hostages were exchanged, and then, after 
a very brief interval of repose, hostilities would 
break out again, each party bitterly accusing 
the other of treachery. Then the poor hosta- 
ges would be slain, first by one party, and after 
raid, in retaliation, by the other. 

In one of these temporary and illusive paci- 
fications, Alfred attempted to bind the Danes 
bv Christian oaths Their customary mode of 



A.D. 875.] Reverses. 151 

The Danish oath. Christian relic* 

binding themselves, in cases where they wished 
to impose a solemn religious obligation, was to 
swear by a certain ornament which they wore 
upon their arms, which is called in the chroni- 
cles of those times a bracelet. ) What its form 
anc fashion was we can not now precisely know ; 
but it is plain that they attached some super- 
stitious, and perhaps idolatrous associations of 
saoredness to it. To swear by this bracelet was 
to place themselves under the most solemn ob- 
ligation that they could assume. Alfred, how- 
ever, not satisfied with this pagan sanction, 
made them, in confirming one treaty, swear by 
the Christian relics, which were certain sup- 
posed memorials of our Saviour's crucifixion, or 
portions of the bodies of dead saints miracu- 
lously preserved, and to which the credulous 
Christians of that day attached an idea of sa- 
oredness and awe, scarcely less superstitious 
than that which their pagan enemies felt for 
the bracelets on their arms. Alfred could not 
have supposed that these treacherous covenant- 
ers, since they would readily violate the faith 
plighted in the name of what they revered, 
could be held by what they hated and despised. 
Perhaps he thought that, though they would be 
no more likely to keep the new oath than the 



152 Alfred the Great. [A.D. ^75 



The story of Rollo. His famous exploits. 



old, still, that their violation of it, when it oc- 
curred, would be in itself a great crime — that 
his cause would be subsequently strength ned 
by their thus incurring the special and unr 'h'» 
gated displeasure of Heaven. 

Among the Danish chieftains with whom Al- 
fred had thus continually to contend in this 
early par', of his reign, there was one very fa- 
mous hero, whose name was Rollo. He in- 
vaded England with a wild horde which attend- 
ed him for a short time, but he soon retired 
and went to France, where he afterward greatly 
distinguished himself by his prowess and his 
exploits. The Saxon historians say that he re- 
treated from England because Alfred gave him 
such a reception that he saw that it would be 
impossible for him to maintain his footing there. 
His account of it was, that, one day, when he 
was perplexed with doubt and uncertainty about 
his plans, he fell asleep and dreamed that he 
saw a swarm of bees flying southward. This 
was an omen, as he regarded it, indicating the 
course which he ought to pursue He aooord* 
ingly embarked his men on board his ships 
again, and crossed the Channel, and sought 
successfully in Normandy, a province of France 
the kingdom and the home which, either on ao- 



A..D. 875.] Reverses. 15u 

Fhe Danes generally successful. Alfred's distress 

count of Alfred or of the bees, he was not to en- 
joy in England. 

The cases, however, in which the Danish 
chieftains were either entirely conquered or 
finally expelled from the kingdom were very 
few. As years passed on, Alfred found his army 
diminishing, and the strength of his kingdom 
wasting away. His resources were exhausted, 
his friends had disappeared, his towns and cas- 
tles were taken, and, at last, about eight years 
after his coronation at Winchester as monarch 
of the most powerful of the Saxon kingdoms, 
he found himself reduced to the very 'ast ex- 
treme of destitution and distrene. 



1">4 Alfred the Great. [A D. 878 

llfred'i perseverance. Another arrival of Dane* 



Chapter VIII. 

The Seclusion. 

OTWITHSTANDING the tide of disas- 
ter and calamity which seemed to be grad- 
ual/ overwhelming Alfred's kingdom, he was 
not reduced to absolute despair, but continued 
for a long time the almost hopeless struggle. 
There is a certain desperation to which men 
are often aroused in the last extremity, which 
surpasses courage, and is even sometimes a very 
effectual substitute for strength ; and Alfred 
might, perhaps, have suoceeded, after all, in sav- 
ing his affairs from utter ruin, had not a new 
circumstance intervened, which seemed at once 
to extinguish all remaining hope and to seal 
his doom. 

This circumstance was the arrival of a new 
band of Danes, who were, it seems, more nu- 
merous, more ferocious, and more insatiable 
than any who had come before them. The 
other kingdoms of the Saxons had been already 
pretty effectually plundered. Alfred's kingdom 
of Wessex was now, therefore, the most invit- 
ing field, and, after various excursions of co» 



A.D. 878.J The Seclusion. 155 



Alfred's army disorganized. He is left alone. 

quest and plunder in other parts of the island, 
they came like an inundation over Alfred's 
frontiers, and all hope of resisting them seems 
to have been immediately abandoned. The 
Saxon armies were broken up. Alfred had lost, 
it appears, all influence and control over both 
leaders and men. The chieftains and nobles 
fled. Some left the country altogether ; others 
hid themselves in the best retreats and fastness- 
es that they could find. Alfred himself was 
obliged to follow the general example. A few 
attendants, either more faithful than the rest. 
*r else more distrustful of their own resources 
md inclined, accordingly, to seek their own per- 
«onal safety by adhering closely to their sover- 
eign, followed him. These, however, one after 
mother, gradually forsook him, and, finally, the 
fallen and deserted monarch was left alone. 

In fact, it was a relief to him at last to be 
left alone ; for they who remained around him 
became in the end a burden instead of afford- 
ing him protection. They were too few to fight; 
and too many to be easily concealed. Alfred 
withdrew himself from them, thinking that, un- 
der the circumstances in which he was now 
placed, he was justified in seeking his own per- 
gonal safety alone. He had a wife, whom h« 



156 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 878 

A.lfred'B wife. He retiree to Athelney 

married when he was about twenty years old ; 
but she was not with him now, though she aft- 
erward joined him. She was in some other 
place ol retreat. She could, in fact, be much 
more easily concealed than her husband ; for 
the Danes, though they would undoubtedly 
have valued her very highly as a captive, would 
not search for her with the eager and persever- 
ing vigilance with which it was to be expected 
they would hunt for their most formidable, but 
now discomfited and fugitive foe. 

Alfred, therefore, after disentangling himself 
from all but one or two trustworthy and faith- 
ful friends, wandered on toward the west, 
through forests, and solitudes, and wilds, to get 
as far away as possible from the enemies who 
were upon his track. He arrived at last on 
the remote western frontiers of his kingdom, at 
a place whose name has been immortalized .,y 
its having been for some time the place of his 
retreat. It was called Athelney.* Athelney 
was, however, scarcely deserving of a name, for 
it was nothing but a small spot of dry land in 
the midst of a morass, which, as gra*.s would 

" The name is spelled variously, Ethelney, iEthelney 
Ethelingay, &c. It was in Somersetshire, between tke riy 
ers Thone and Parrot. 



A.D.878.J The Seclusion. 157 

The cow-herd. He gives Alfred an asylum, 

grow upon it in the openings among the trees, 
a simple cow-herd had taken possession of, and 
built his hut there. 

The solid land which the cow-herd called his 
farm was only about two acres in extent. All 
around it was a black morass, of great extent, 
wooded With alders, among which green sedges 
grew, and sluggish streams meandered, and 
mossy tracts of verdure spread treacherously 
over deep bogs and sloughs. In the driest sea- 
son of the summer the g^ats and the sheep pen- 
etrated into these recesses, but, excepting in 
the devious and tortuous path by which the 
cow-herd found his way to his island, it was 
almost impassable for man. 

Alfred, however, attracted now by the imped- 
iments and obstacles which would have repel- 
led a wanderer under any other circumstances, 
went on with the greater alacrity the more in- 
tricate and entangled the thickets of the morass 
were found, since these difficulties promised to 
impede or deter pursuit. He found his way in 
to the cow-herd's hut He asked for shelter 
People who live in solitudes are always hospi- 
table. The cow-herd took the wayworn fugi- 
tive in, and gave him food and shelter. Alfred 
remained his guest for a considerable time 



158 Alfrk-) the Great. [A.D.875 

Alfred's account of himself. The story of Alfred's seclusion 

The story is, that after a few days the cow- 
herd asked him who he was, and how he came 
to be wandering about in that distressed and 
destitute condition. Alfred told him that he 
was one of the king's thanes. A thane was a 
sort of chieftain in the Saxon state. He ac- 
counted for his condition by saying that Alfred's 
army nad been beaten by the Danes, and that 
he, with the other generals, had been forced to 
fly. He begged the cow-herd to conceal him, 
and to keep the secret of his character until 
times should change, so that he could take the 
field again. 

The story of Alfred's seclusion on the island* 
as it might almost be called, of Ethelney, is told 
very differently by the different narrators cf 
it. Some of these narrations are inconsistent 
and contradictory. They all combine, however, 
though they differ in respect to many other inci- 
dents and details, in relating the far-famed story 
of Alfred's leaving the cakes to burn. It seem? 
that, though the cow-herd himself was allowed 
to regard Alfred as a man of rank in disguise-- 
though even he did not know that it was the 
king — his wife was not admitted, even in thi? 
partial way, into the secret. She was made if 
consider the stranger as some common strolling 



A.D.878.J The Seclusion. 159 

Alfred's occupations at Ethelney. His gloomy thought*. 

countryman, and the better to sustain this idea, 
he was taken into the cow-herd's service, and 
employed in various ways, from time to time, 
in labors about the house and farm. Alfred's 
thoughts, however, were little interested in 
these occupations. His mind dwelt incessant- 
ly apon his misfortunes and the calamities 
which had befallen his kingdom. He was har- 
assed by continual suspense and anxiety, not 
being able to gain any clear or certain intelli- 
gence about the condition and movements of 
either his friends or foes. He was revolving 
continually vague and half-formed plans for re- 
suming the command of his army and attempt- 
ing to regain his kingdom, and wearying him- 
self with fruitless attempts to devise means to 
accomplish these ends. Whenever he engaged 
voluntarily in any occupation, it would always 
be something in harmony with these trains of 
thought and these plans. He would repair and 
put in order implements of hunting, or any 
thing else which might be deemed to have some 
relation to war. He would make bows and ar 
rows in the chimney corner — lost, all the time, 
in melancholy reveries, or in wild and visionary 
*ohemes of future exploits. 

One evening, while he was thus at work, the 



160 Alfred the Urbat. |A.D. 87k 

The etory of the cakes. Its deep Ln teres* 

cow-herd's wife left, for a few moments, some 
cakes under his charge, which she was baking 
upon the great stone hearth, in preparation foi 
their common supper. Alfred, as might ha\e 
been expected, let the cakes burn. The wom- 
an, w T hen she came back and found them smok- 
ing, was very angry. She told him that he 
could eat the cakes fast enough when they were 
baked, though it seemed he was too lazy and 
good for nothing to do the least thing in helping 
to bake them. What wide-spread and lasting 
effects result sometimes from the most trifling 
and inadequate causes ! The singularity of 
such an adventure befalling a monarch in dis- 
guise, and the terse antithesis of the reproaches 
with which the woman rebuked him, invest 
th ; £ incident with an interest which carries it 
ev^ry w r here spontaneously among mankind. 
Millions, within the last thousand years, have 
heard the name of Alfred, who have known no 
more of him than this story ; and millions more, 
who never would have heard of him but for this 
atory, have been led by it to study the whole 
history of his life ; so that the unconscious cow- 
herd's wife, in scolding the disguised monarch 
for forgetting her cakes, was per v aps doing 




24—11 



A.li.878.] The Seclusion. 163 

Various accounts of the story of the cakes. 

more than he ever did himself for the wide ex- 
tension of his future fame.* 

* As this incident has been so famous, it may arausw toe 
readar to peruse the different accounts which are given of it 
in the most ancient records which new remain. They were 
written in Latin and in Saxon, and, of course, as given here, 
they ire translationa The discrepancies which the reader 
will observe in the details illustrate well the uncertainty 
which pertains to all historical accounts that go back to so 
early an age. 

" He led an unquiet life there, at his cow-herd's. It hap- 
pened that, on a certain day, the rustic wife of the man pre- 
pared to bake her bread. The king, sitting then near the 
nearth, was making ready his bow and arrows, and other war- 
like implements, when the ill-tempered woman beheld the 
loaves burning at the fire. She ran hastily and removed them, 
scolding at the king, and exclaiming, ' You man ! you will not 
turn the bread you see burning, but you will be very glad to 
eat it when it is done !' This unlucky woman little thought 
she was addressing the King Alfred." 

In a certain Saxon history the story is told thus: 

' He took shelter in a swain's house, and also him and hi» 
evil wife diligently served. It happened that, on one day, 
the swain's wife heated her oven, and the king sat by it warm- 
ing himself by the fire. She knew not then that he was the 
king Then the evil woman was excited, and spoke to the 
king with an angry mind. ' Turn thou these loaves, that 
they burn not, for I see daily that thou art a great eater !' He 
soon obeyed this evil woman because she would scold. He 
•hon the good king, with great anxiety and sighing, called to 
his Lord, imploring his pitv " 

The following account is from a Latin life of St. Neot whicfc 
rtUl exists in manuscript, and is of great ant quit- 



164 Alfrbo the Great. [A.D. 878 

Various accounts of the story of the cakes- 



Alfred was, for a time, extremely depressed 
and disheartened bv the sense of his misfortunes 

" Alfred, a fugitive, and exiled from his people, came by 
chance and entered the house of a poor herdsman, and there 
remained some days concealed, poor an<? unknown. 

" It happened that, on the Sabbath day, the herdsman, as 
usual, led his cattle to their accustomed pastures, and the king 
remained alone in the cottage with the man's wife. She, as 
necessity required, placed a few loaves, which some call 
loudas, on a pan, with fire underneath, to be baked for her 
husband's repast and her own, on his return. 

" While she was necessarily busied, like peasants, on other 
offices, she went anxious to the fire, and found the bread 
burning on the other side. She immediately assailed the king 
with reproaches. ' Why, man ! do you sit thinking there, and 
are too proud to turn the bread ? Whatever be your family, 
with your manners and sloth, what trust can be put in you 
hereafter ? If you were even a nobleman, you will be glad 
x> eat the bread which you neglect to attend to.' The king, 
though stung by her upbraidings, yet heard her with patience 
and mildness, and. roused by her scolding, took care to bake 
her bread thereafter as she wished." 

There is one remaining account, which is as follows : 
" It happened that the herdsman one day, as usual, led his 
swine to their accustomed pasture, and the king remained at 
home alone with the wife. She placed her bread under the 
ashes of the fire to bake, and was employed in other business 
when she saw the loaves burning, and said to the king in hei 
^age, ' You will not turn the bread you see burning, thougi 
you will be very glad to eat it when done !' The king, with 
a submitting countenance, though vexed at her upbraidings 
not only turned the bread, but gave them to the wcman well 
baked and unbroken." 

*t is obvious, from the character of these several accounts 



A.D. 87S.] The Seclusion. 165 

Effect of Alfred's seclusion on his heart and character, 

and calamities ; but the monkish writers whc 
Inscribed his character and his life say that tho 
influence of his sufferings was extremely salu- 
tary in softening his disposition and improving 
his character. He had been proud, and haughty, 
and domineering before. He became humble, 
docile, and considerate now. Faults of charac- 
ter that are superficial, resulting from the force 
of circumstances and peculiarities of tempta- 
tion, rather than from innate depravity of heart, 
are easily and readily burned off in the fire of 
affliction, while the same severe ordeal seem? 
only to indurate the more hopelessly those pro* 
pensities which lie deeply seated in an inherent 
and radical perversity. 

that each writer, taking the substantial fact as the ground- 
work of his story, has added such details and chosen such 
expressions for the housewife's reproaches as suited his own 
individual fancy. We find, unfortunately for the truth and 
trustworthiness of history, that this is almost always the case, 
when independent and original accounts of past transactions, 
whether great or small, are compared. The gravest histo- 
rians, as well as the lightest story tellers, frame their narra- 
tions for effect, and the tendency in all ages to shape and 
fashion the narrative with a view to the particular effect de- 
signed by the individual narrator to be produced has been 
found entirely irresistible. It is necessary to compare, with 
great diligence and careful scrutiny, a great many different ac- 
counts, in order to learn how little there is to be exactly and 
confidently believed. 



166 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 878 

Alfred's patience and fortitude. He makes himself known. 

Alfred, though restless and wretched in his 
apparently hopeless seclusion, bore his priva- 
tions with a great degree of patience and forti- 
tude, planning, all the time, the best means of 
reorganizing his scattered forces, and of rescu- 
ing his country from the ruin into which it had 
fallen. Some of his former friends, roaming as 
he himself had done, as fugitives about the 
country, happened at length to come into the 
neighborhood of his retreat. He heard of them, 
and cautiously made himself known. They 
were rejoiced to find their old commander once 
more, and, as there was no force of the Danes 
in that neighborhood at the time, they lingered, 
timidly and fearlessly at first, in the vicinity, 
until, at length, growing more bold as they 
found themselves unmolested in their retreat, 
they began to make it their gathering place 
and head-quarters. Alfred threw off his dis 
guise, and assumed his true character Tidings 
of his having been thus discovered spread con* 
fidentially among the most tried and faithful of 
hi« Saxon followers, who had themselves been 
seeking safety in other places of refuge. They 
began, at first cautiously and by stealth, but 
afterw r ard more openly, to repair to the spot 
Alfred's family, too, from which he had no\x 



A.I). 878.) The Seclusion. 1H7 

Scarcity of provisions. Services of the herdsman 

been for many months entirely separated, con« 
trived to rejoin him. The herdsman, who provec 
to be a man of intelligence and character su- 
perior to his station, entered heartily into al] 
these movements. He kept the secret faith- 
fully. He did all in his power to provide foi 
the wants and to promote the comfort of his 
warlike guests, and, by his fidelity and devo- 
tion, laid Alfred under obligations of gratitude 
to him, which the king, when he was afterward 
restored to the throne, did not forget to repay. 
Notwithstanding, however, all the efforts 
which the herdsman made to obtain supplies, 
the company now assembled at Ethelney were 
sometimes reduced to great straits. There were 
not only the wants of Alfred and his immediate 
family and attendants to be provided for, but 
many persons were continually coming and 
going, arriving often at unexpected times, and 
acting, as roving and disorganized bodies of sol- 
diers are very apt to do at such times, in a very 
inconsiderate manner. The herdsman's farm 
produced very little food, and the inaccessible- 
ness of its situation made it difficult to bring in 
supplies from without. In fact, it was neces- 
sary, in one part of the approach to it, to use a 
boat, so that the place is generally called, in his- 



168 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 87£» 

Fishing excursions. The story of the beggar. 

tory, an island, though it was insulated mainly 
by swamps and morasses rather than by nav- 
igable waters. There were, however, sluggish 
streams all around it, where Alfred's men, when 
their stores were exhausted, went to fish, under 
the herdsman's guidance, returning sometimes 
with a moderate fare, and sometimes with none. 
The monks who describe this portion of Al- 
fred's life have recorded an incident as having 
occurred on the occasion of one of these fishing 
excursions, which, however, is certainly, in part, 
a fabrication, and may be wholly so. It was in 
the winter. The waters about the grounds were 
frozen up. The provisions in the house were 
nearly exhausted, there being scarcely any thing 
remaining. The men went away with their 
fishing apparatus, and with their bows and ar- 
rows, in hopes of procuring some fish or fowl to 
replenish their stores. Alfred was left alone, 
with only a single lady of his family, who is 
called in the account "Mother," though it could 
not have been Alfred's own mother, as she had 
been dead many years. Alfred was sitting in 
the hut reading. A beggar, who had by some 
means or other found his way in over the frozen 
morasses, came to the door, and asked for food. 
Alfred, looking up from his book, asked the 



AT). 878.] The Seclusion. 169 

Alfred's charity. Hia drwim. 

mother, whoever she was, to go and see what 
there was to give him. She went to make ex- 
amination, and presently returned, saying that 
there was nothing to give him. There was 
only a single loaf of bread remaining, and that 
would not be half enough for their own wants 
that very night when the hunting party should 
return, if they should come back unsuccessful 
from their expedition. Alfred hesitated a mo- 
ment, and then ordered half the loaf to be given 
to the beggar. He said, in justification of the 
act, that his trust was now in God, and that 
the power which once, with five loaves and two 
small fishes, fed abundantly three thousand 
men, could easily make half a loaf suffice for 
ihem. 

The loaf was accordingly divided, the beggar 
;vas supplied, and, delighted with this unex- 
pected relief, he went away. Alfred turned his 
attention again to his reading. After a time 
the book dropped from his hand. He had fall- 
en asleep. He dreamed that a certain saint 
appeared to him, and made a revelation to him 
from heaven. God, he said, had heard his 
j yers, was satisfied with his penitence, and 
pitied his sorrows ; and that his act of charity 
In relieving the poor beggar, even at the risk o/ 



170 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 878 

Return of the hunting party. Revival of Alfred's hopes 

leaving himself and his friends in utter destitu- 
tion, was extremely acceptable in the sight of 
Heaven. The faith and trust which he thu? 
manifested were about to be rewarded. The 
time for a change had come. He was to be 
restored to his kingdom, and raised to a new 
and higher state of prosperity and power than 
before. As a token that this prediction was 
true, and would be all fulfilled, the hunting 
party would return that night with an ample 
and abundant supply. 

Alfred awoke from his sleep with his mind 
filled with new hopes and anticipations. The 
hunting party returned loaded with supplies, 
and in a state of the greatest exhilaration at 
their success. They had fish and game enough 
to have supplied a little army. The incident 
of relieving the beggar, the dream, and their 
unwonted success confirming it, inspired them 
all with confidence and hope. They began to 
form plans for commencing offensive operations. 
They would build fortifications to strengthen 
their position on the island. They would col- 
lect a force They would make sallies to at- 
tack the smaller parties of the Danes. They 
would send agents and emissaries about the 
kingdom to arouse, and encourage, and assem- 



A.D.878.] The Seclusion. 17] 

Plans of Alfred and hia friends to recover the kingdom. 



ble such Saxon forces as were yet to be found. 
In a word, they would commence a series of 
measures for recovering the country from the 
possession of its pestilent enemy, and for restor- 
ing the rightful sovereign to the throne. The 
development of these projects and plans, and 
the measures for carrying them into effect, were 
very much hastened by an event which sudden- 
ly occurred in the neighborhood of Ethelney, 
the account of which, however, must be post- 
poned to the next chapter. 



172 Alfred the Great. [AD. 878 

Supposed situation of Ethelney. The jewel of gold 



Chapter IX. 

Reassembling of the Army. 

IT^THELNEY, though its precise locality 
*-^ can not now be certainly ascertained, wa? 
in the southwestern part of England, in Som- 
ersetshire, which county lies on the southern 
shore of the Bristol Channel. There is a region 
of marshes in that vicinity, which tradition as- 
signs as the place of Alfred's retreat ; and there 
was, about the middle of this century, a farm* 
house there, which bore the name of Ethelney, 
though this name may have been given to it in 
modern times by those who imagined it to be 
the ancient locality. A jewel of gold, engraved 
as an amulet to be worn about the neck, and 
inscribed with the Saxon words which mean 
" Alfred had me made," was found in the vicin- 
ity, and is still carefully preserved in a museum 
•ii England. Some curious antiquarians pro 
Jess to find the very hillock, rising out of the 
lew grounds around, where the herdsman that 
entertained Alfred so long lived ; but this, of 
crurse is all uncertain. The peculiarities of 



A.D.,878.] AlRmv Reassembled. 173 

Changes produced by time. Ath sd fortifies Ethelney. 

the spot derived their character from the mo- 
rasses and the woods, and the courses of the 
sluggish streams in the neighborhood, and these 
are elements of landscape scenery which ten 
centuries of time and of cultivation would en- 
tirely change. 

Whatever may have been the precise situa- 
tion of the spot, instead of being, as at first, a 
mere hiding-place and retreat, it became, before 
many months, as was intimated in the last 
chapter, a military camp, secluded and conceal 
ed, it is true, but still possessing, in a consid- 
erable degree, the characteristics of a fastness 
and place of defense. Alfred's company erect- 
ed something which might be called a wall. 
They built a bridge across the water where the 
.nerdsman's boat had been accustomed to ply. 
They raised two towers to watch and guard 
the bridge. All these defenses were indeed of 
a very rude and simple construction ; still, they 
answered the purpose intended. They afforded 
a real protection ; and, more than all, they pro- 
duced a certain moral effect upon the minds A 
those whom they shielded, by enabling them to 
consider themselves as no longer lurking fugi- 
tives, dependent for safety on simple conceal- 
ment, but as a garrison, weak, it is true, but 



174 Alfred the Ureat. [A.D.878 

Hubba in Wales. Castle Ken with 

still gathering strength, and advancing gradu- 
ally toward a condition which would enable 
them to make positive aggressions upon the 
enemy. 

The circumstance which occurred to hasten 
the development of Alfred's plans, and which 
was briefly alluded to at the close of the last 
chapter, was the following : It seems that quite 
a large party of Danes, under the command of 
a leader named Hubba, had been making a tour 
of conquest and plunder in Wales, which coun- 
try was on the other side of the Bristol Chan- 
nel, directly north of Ethelney, where Alfred 
was beginning to concentrate a force. He 
would be immediately exposed to an attack 
from this quarter as soon as it should be known 
that he was at Ethelney, as the distance across 
the Channel was not great, and the Danes were 
provided with shipping. 

Ethelney was in the county called Somerset- 
shire. To the southwest of Somersetshire, a 
little below it, on the shores of the Bristol Chan- 
nel, was a castle, called Castle Kenwith, in 
Devonshire. The Duke of Devonshire, who 
held this castle, encouraged by Alfred's prepa- 
rations for action, had assembled a considerable 
force her°., to be ready to co-operate with Ai- 



\.D. 878.] Army Reassembled 175 

lubba crosses the Channel. He besieges Odun. 

fred in the active measures which he was about 
to adopt. Things being in this state, Hubba 
brought down his forces to the northern shores 
of the Channel, collected together all the boats 
and shipping that he could command, crossed 
the Channel, and landed on the Devonshire 
shore. Odun, the duke, not being strong enough 
to resist, fled, and shut himself up, with all his 
men, in the castle. Hubba advanced to the cas- 
tle walls, and, sitting down before them, began 
to consider what to do. 

Hubba was the last surviving son of Ragner 
Lodbrog, whose deeds and adventures were re- 
lated in a former chapter. He was, like all 
other chieftains among the Danes, a man of 
great determination and energy, and he had 
made himself very celebrated all over the land 
by his exploits and conquests. His particular 
horde of marauders, too, was specially celebrated 
among all the others, on account of a mysteri- 
ous and magical banner which they bore. The 
name of this banner was the Reafan, that is, 
the Raven. There was the figure of a raven 
woven or embroidered on the banner. Hubba's 
three sisters had wcven it for their brothers, 
when they went forth across the German Ocean 
to avenge their father's death. It possessed, a 



176 Alfrei the Great. [A.D. 878 

The magical banner. How regarded by the Saxons and Dane* 

both the Danes and Saxons believed, supernat* 
ural and magical powers. The raven on thf 
banner could foresee the result of any battle intt 
which it was borne. It remained lifeless and 
at rest whenever the result was to be adverse ; 
and, on the other hand, it fluttered its wings 
with a mysterious and magical vitality when 
they who bore it were destined to victory. The 
Danes consequently looked up to this banner 
with a feeling of profound veneration and awe, 
and the Saxons feared and dreaded its mysteri- 
ous power. The explanation of this pretended 
miracle is easy. The imagination of superst 
tious men, in such a state of society as that of 
these half-savage Danes, is capable of much 
greater triumphs over the reason and the senses 
than is implied in making them believe that the 
wings of a bird are either in motion or at rest^ 
whichever it fancies, when the banner on which 
the image is embroidered is advancing to the 
field and fluttering in the breeze. 

The Castle of Kenwith was situated on a 
rocky promontory, and was defended by a Saxr.r 
wall. Hubba saw tnat it would be difficult to 
carry it by a direct assault. On the other hand 
it was not well supplied with water or provis- 
ions, and the numerous multitude which ha*) 



A.D. 878.] Army Reassembled. 177 

Hubba's plan of operations. Preparations of Odon 

crowded into it, would, as Hubba thought, be 
speedily compelled to surrender by thirst and 
famine, if he were simply to wait a short time, 
till their scanty stock of food was consumed. 
Perhaps the raven did not flutter her wings 
when Hubba approached the castle, but by her 
apparent lifelessness portended calamity if an 
attack were to be made. At all events, Hubba 
decided not to attack the castle, but to invest 
it closely on all sides, with his army on the land 
and with his vessels on the side of the sea, and 
thus reduce it by famine. He accordinglj 
stationed his troops and his galleys at their posts 
and established himself in his' tent, quietly tf 
await the result. 

He did not have to wait so long as he antici- 
pated. Odun, finding that his danger was so 
imminent, nay, that his destruction was inevi- 
table if he remained in his castle, thus shut in, 
determined, in the desperation to which the 
emergency reduced him, to make a sally. Ac- 
cordingly, one night, as soon as it was dark, so 
that the indications of any movement within the 
castle might not be perceived by the sentinels 
and watcnmen in Hubba's lines, he began to 
marshal and organize his army for a sudden and 
furious onset upon the camp of the Danes- 

24—12 



178 Alfred the Great. |A D. 878. 



Sally of the Saxons. Death of Hubbe 



They waited, when all was ready, till the first 
break of day. To make the surprise most ef- 
fectual, it was necessary that it should tak* 
place in the night ; but then, on the other hand, 
the success, if they should be successful, would 
require, in order to be followed up with ad- 
vantage, the light of day. Odun chose, there- 
fore, the earliest dawn as the time for his at- 
tempt, as this was the only period which would 
give him at first darkness for his surprise, and 
afterward light for his victory. The time was 
well chosen, the arrangements were all well 
made, and the result corresponded with the 
character of th'e preparations. The sally wa* 
triumphantly successful. 

The Danes, who were all, except their sen- 
tinels, sleeping quietly and secure, were sud 
denly aroused by the unearthly and terrific yells 
with which the Saxons burst into the lines of 
their encampment. They flew to arms, but 
the shock of the onset produced a panic and 
confusion which soon made their cause hopeless. 
Odun and his immediate followers pressed di 
rectly forward into Hubba's tent, where they 
surprised the commander, and massacred him 
on the spot. They seized, too, to their inex- 
pressible joy, the sac ed banner, which was Id 



A.D. 876.] Army Reassembled. 179 

Capture of the banner. Slaughter of the Danea 

Hubba's tent, and bore it forth, rejoicing in it, 
not merely as a splendid trophy of their victory, 
but as a loss to their enemies which fixed and 
sealed their doom. 

The Danes fled before their enemies in ter- 
ror, and the consternation which they felt, when 
they learned that their banner had been cap- 
tured and their leader slain, was soon changed 
into absolute despair. The Saxons slew them 
without mercy, cutting down some as they were 
running before them in their headlong flight, 
and transfixing others with their spears and ar- 
rows as they lay upon the ground, trampled 
down by the crowds and the confusion. There 
was no place of refuge to which they could fly 
except to their ships. Those, therefore, that 
escaped the weapons of their pursuers, fled in 
the direction of the water, where the strong and 
the fortunate gained the boats and the galleys, 
while the exhausted and the wounded were 
drowned. The fleet sailed away from the coast, 
and the Saxons, on surveying the scene of the 
terrible contest, estimated that there were 
twelve hundred dead bodies lying in the field. 

This victory, and especially the capture of 
the Haven, produced vast effects on the minds 
both of the Saxons and of the Danes, animal- 



180 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 81b 



Alfred's proepects brighten. Alarm of the Danes 

ing anil encouraging the one, and depressing 
the other with superstitious as well as natural 
and proper fears. The influence of the battle 
was sufficient, in fact, wholly to change Al- 
fred's position and prospec+3. The news of the 
discovery of the place of his retreat, and of the 
measures which he was maturing for taking 
the field again to meet his enemies, spread 
throughout the country. The people were ev- 
ery where ready to take up arms and join him. 
There were large bodies of Danes in several 
parts of his dominions still, and they, alarmed 
somewhat at these indications of new efforts of 
resistance on the part of their enemies, began 
to concentrate their strength and prepare for 
another struggle. 

The main body of the Danes were encamped 
at a place called Edendune, in Wiltshire. There 
is a hill near, which the army made their main 
position, and the marks of their fortifications 
have been traced there, either in imagination or 
reality, in modern times. Alfred wished tc 
gain more precise and accurate information 
than he yet possessed of the numbers and si.Ti- 
ation of his foes ; and, in order to do this, *£• 
etead of employing a spy, he conceived tht le- 
sion of going himself in disguise to explore Jw 



A.D 878.] Army Reassemble d. 181 

Alfred resolves to explore the Danish camp. His disguise 

oamp of the Danes. The undertaking was full 
of danger, but yet not quite so desperate as at 
tirst it might seem. Alfred had had abundant 
opportunities during ths months of his seclusion 
to become familiar with the modes of speech 
and the manners of peasant life. He had also, 
in his early years, stored his memory with Sax- 
on poetry, as has already been stated. He was 
fond of music, too, and well skilled in it ; so 
that he had every qualification for assuming the 
character of one of those rjving harpers, who, 
in those days, followed armies, to sing songs 
and make amusement for the soldiers. He de- 
termined, consequently, to assume the disguise 
of a harper, and to wander into the camp of the 
Danes, that he might make his own observa- 
tions on the nature and magnitude of the force 
with which he was about to contend. 

He accordingly clothed himself in the garb 
of the character which he was to assume, and. 
taking his harp upon his shoulder, wandered 
away in the direction of the Northmen's camp. 
Such a strolling countryman, half musician, 
half beggar would enter without suspicion or 
hinderance into the camp, even though he be- 
longed to the nation of the enemy. Alfred was 
readily admitted, and he wandered at will about 



182 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 87b 

Alfred in the Danish camp. He plays for the king 

the lines, to play and sing to the soldiers wher- 
ever he found groups to listen — intent, appar- 
ently, on nothing but his scanty pittance of pay, 
while he was really studying, with the utmost 
attention and care, the number, and disposition, 
and discipline of the troops, and all the arrange- 
ments of the army. He came very near dis- 
covering himself, however, by overacting his 
part. His music was so well executed and his 
ballads were so fine, that reports of the excel- 
lence of his performance reached the command- 
er's ears. He ordered the pretended harper to 
be sent into his tent, that he might hear him 
play and sing. Alfred went, and thus he had 
the opportunity of completing his observations 
in the tent, and in the presence of the Danish 
king. 

Alfred found that the Danish camp was in a 
very unguarded and careless condition. The 
name of the commander, or king, was Guth- 
rum* Alfred, while playing in his presence, 
studied his character, and it is improbable that 
the very extraordinary course which he after- 
ward pursued in respect to G uthrum may have 
been caused, in a great degree, by the opportu- 

• Spelled sometimes Godrun, Gutrum, Gythram, and is 
carious other wavs. 



\.D. 878.] Army Reassembled. 1S3 



Guthrum'g reception of Alfred. His attendant and companion 

nity he now enjoyed of domestic access to him 
and of obtaining a near and intimate view of 
his social and personal character. Guthrum 
treated the supposed harper with great kind- 
ness. He was much pleased both with his sing- 
ing and his songs, being attracted, too, proba- 
bly, in some degree, by a certain mysterious 
interest which the humble stranger must have 
inspired ; for Alfred possessed personal and in- 
tellectual traits of character which could not. 
but have given to his conversation and his man- 
ners a certain charm, notwithstanding all his 
efforts to disguise or conceal them. 

However this may be, Guthrum gave Alfred 
a very friendly reception, and the hour of social 
intercourse and enjoyment which the general 
and the ballad-singer spent together was only 
a precursor of the more solid and honest friend- 
ship which afterward subsisted between them 
as allied sovereigns. 

Alfred had one person with him, whom he 
had brought from Ethelney — a sort of attend- 
ant — to help him carry his harp, and to be 8 
companion for him on the way. He would have 
needed such a companion even if he had been 
only what he seemed ; but for a spy, going in 
disguise into the camp of such ferocious ene- 



184 Alfrkd the Great. [A.D. 878 

Alfred returns to Efchelney. His plan* 



mies as the Danes, it would seem absolutely 
indispensable that he should have the support 
and sympathy of a friend. 

Alfred, after finishing his examination of the 
3amp of Guthrum, and forming secretly, in hi? 
own mind, his plans for attacking it, moved 
leisurely away, taking his harp and his attend- 
ant with him, as if going on in search of some 
new place to practice his profession. As soon 
as he was out of the reach of observation, he 
made a circuit and returned in safety to Ethel- 
ney. The season was now spring, and every 
thing favored the commencement of his enter- 
prise. 

His first measure was to send out some trusty 
messengers into all the neighboring counties, 
to visit and confer with his friends at their va- 
rious castles and strong-holds. These messen- 
gers were to announce to such Saxon leaders as 
they should find that Alfred was still alive, and 
that he was preparing to take the field against 
the Danes again ; and were to invite them to 
assemble at a certain place appointed, in a for- 
est, with as many followers as they could briag, 
that the king might there complete the organ- 
ization of an army, and hold consultatk n **'ith 
them to mature their plans 



A.I). #78.] Army Reassembled. 183 

Selwood Forest. Stone of Egbert 

The wood on the borders of which they were 
to meet was an extensive forest of willows, fit 
teen miles long and six broad It was known 
oy the name of Selwood Forest. There was a 
ceiebrated place called the Stone of Egbert, 
where the meeting was to be held. Each chief- 
tain whom the messengers should visit was to 
be invited to come to the Stone of Egbert at 
the appointed day, with as many armed men, 
and yet in as secret and noiseless a manner as 
possible, so as thus, while concentrating all 
their forces in preparation for their intended at- 
tack, to avoid every thing which would tend to 
put Guthrum on his guard. 

The messengers found the Saxon chieftains 
very ready to enter into Alfred's plans. They 
were rejoiced to hear, as some of them did now 
for the first time hear, that he was alive, and 
that the spirit and energy of his former charac- 
ter were about to be exhibited again. Everv 
thing, in fact, conspired to favor the enterprise. 
The long and gloomy months of winter were 
past, and the opening spring brought with it, 
as usual, excitement and readiness for action. 
The tidings of Odun's victory over Hubba, and 
the capture of the sacred raven, which had 
spread everv where, had awakened a general 



L86 Alfred the Great. [A.D. ^7b 

The great meeting in Selwood Forest. Rejoicings* 

enthusiasm, and a desire on the part of ali 
the Saxon chieftains and soldiers to try then 
strength once more with their ancient enemies. 

Accordingly, those to whom the secret was 
intrusted eagerly accepted the invitation, or, 
perhaps, as it should rather be expressed, obeyed 
the summons which Alfred sent them. They 
marshaled their forces without any delay, and 
repaired to the appointed place in Selwood For- 
est. Alfred was ready to meet them there. 
Two days were occupied with the arrivals of 
the different parties, and in the mutual con- 
gratulations and rejoicings. Growing more 
bold as their sense of strength increased with 
their increasing numbers, and with the ardor 
and enthusiasm which their mutual influence 
on each other inspired, they spent the intervals 
of their consultations in festivities and rejoic- 
ings, celebrating the occasion with games and 
martial music. The forest resounded with tne 
blasts of horns, the sound of the trumpets, the 
clash of arms, and the shouts of joy and con- 
gratulation, which all the efforts of the more 
prudent and cautious could not repress. 

In the mean time, Guthrum remained in his 
encampment at Edendune. This seems to have 
been the principal concentration of the forces 



A.D. 878.] Army Reassembled. 187 

Guthrum in his camp. His sense of security 

of the Danes which were marshaled for military 
service ; and yet there were large numbers of 
the people, disbanded soldiers, or non-combat- 
ants, who had come over in the train of the ar- 
mies, that had taken possession of the lands 
which they had conquered, and had settled upon 
them for cultivation, as if to make them their 
permanent home. These intruders were scat- 
tered in larger or smaller bodies in various parts 
of the kingdom, the Saxon inhabitants being 
prevented from driving them away by the in- 
fluence and power of the armies, which still 
kept possession of the field, and preserved their 
military organization complete, ready for action 
at any time whenever any organized Saxon 
force should appear. 

Guthrum, as we have said, headed the larg 
est of these armies. He was aware of the in 
creasing excitement that was spreading among 
the Saxon population, and he even heard ru- 
mors of the movements which the bodies of 
Saxons made, in going under their several chief- 
tains to Selwood Forest. He expected that 
some important movement was about to occur, 
but he had no idea that preparations so extend- 
ed, and for so decisive a demonstration, were 
so far advanced. He remained, therefore, ai 



188 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 876 

Alfred marches toward Guthrum's camp. He encamps at ^Ecglea. 

his camp at Edendune, gradually completing 
his arrangements for his summer campaign, but 
making no preparations for resisting any sud- 
den or violent attack. 

When all was ready, Alfred put himself at 
the head of the forces which had collected at 
the Egbert Stone, or, as it is quaintly spelled 
in some of the old accounts, Ecgbyrth-stan. 
There is a place called Brixstan in that vicinity 
now, which may possibly be the same name 
modified and abridged by the lapse of time 
Alfred moved forward toward Guthrum's camp 
He went only a part of the way the first day 
intending to finish the march by getting into 
the immediate vicinity of the enemy on the 
morrow. He succeeded in accomplishing this 
object, and encamped the next night at a pltice 
called ^Ecglea, # on an eminence from which he 
could reconnoiter, from a great distance, the 
position of the army. 

That night, as he was sleeping in his tent, 
he had a remarkable dream. He dreamed that 
his relative, St. Neot, who has been already 
mentioned as the chaplain or priest who reprov- 

* Some think that this place is the modern Leigh ; others, 
that it was Highley ; either of which names might hare beei 
deduced from jEcglea 



A.D. b7*.] Army Reassembled. 189 

Alfred's remarkable dream. EnthusiMm of the army. 

ed him so severely for his sins in the early part 
of his reign, appeared to him. The apparition 
bid him not fear the immense army of pagans 
whom he was going to encounter on the mor- 
row God, he said, had accepted his penitence, 
anc was now about to take him under his spe- 
cial protection. The calamities which had be- 
fallen him were sent in judgment to punish the 
pride and arrogance which he had manifested 
in the early part of his reign ; but his faults 
had been expiated by the sufferings he had en- 
dured, and by the penitence and the piety 
which they had been the means of awakening 
ji his heart ; and now he might go forward into 
the battle without fear, as God was about to 
give him the victory over all his enemies. 

The king related his dream the next morn- 
ing to his army. The enthusiasm and ardor 
which the chieftains and the men had felt be- 
fore were very much increased by this assur- 
ance of success. They broke up their encamp- 
ment, therefore, and commenced the march, 
which was to bring them, before many hours, 
into the presence of the enemy, with great alac- 
rity and eager expectations of success. 



UO Alfred the Great. [A.D 878 

Alfred puts his army in motion. Position of Gathram 



Chapter X. 
The Victory over the Danes. 

ENCOURAGED by his dream, and anima 
ted by the number and the elation of hi? 
followers, Alfred led his army onward toward 
the part of the country where the camp of the 
enemy lay. He intended to surprise them ; 
and, although Guthrum had heard vague ru- 
mors that some great Saxon movement was in 
train, he viewed the sudden appearance of this 
large and well-organized army with amaze- 
ment. 

He had possession of the hill near Edendune, 
which has been already described. He had es- 
tablished his head-quarters here, and made his 
strongest fortifications on the summit of the 
eminence. The main bodv of his forces, were, 
however, encamped upon the plain, over which 
they extended, in vast numbers, far and wide 
Alfred halted his men to change the order of 
march into the order of battle. Here he made 
an address to his men. As no time was to be 
lost, he spoke but a few words. He remuvifv 



A.D 878.] Saxon Victory. 19) 

The battle. Defeat of the Dane* 

them that they were to contend, that day, to 
rescue themselves and their country from the 
intolerable oppression of a horde of pagan idol- 
aters ; that God was on their side, and had 
promised them the victory ; and he urged them 
to act like men, so as to deserve the success 
and happiness which was in store for them. 

The army then advanced to the attack, the 
Danes having been drawn out hastily, but with 
as much order as the suddenness of the call 
would allow, to meet them. When near enough 
for their arrows to take effect, the long line of 
Alfred's troops discharged their arrows. They 
then advanced to the attack with lances ; but 
soon these and all other weapons which kept 
the combatants at a distance were thrown aside, 
and it became a terrible conflict with swords, 
man to man. 

It was not long before the Danes began to 
yield. They were not sustained by the strong 
assurance of victory, nor by the desperate de- 
termination which animated the Saxons, The 
flight soon became general. They could not 
gain the fortification on the hill, for Alfred had 
forced his way in between the encampment on 
the plains and the approaches to the hill. The 
Danes, consequently, not being able to find ref 



192 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 87$ 

Flight of the Danes. Pursuit of the Saxoua 

uge in either part of the position they had tak- 
en, tied altogether from the field, pursued by 
Alfred's victorious columns as fast as they could 
follow. 

Guthrum succeeded, by great and vigorous 
exertions, in rallying his men, or, at least, in 
so far collecting and concentrating the separate 
bodies of the fugitives as to change the flight 
into a retreat, having some semblance of mili- 
tary order. Vast numbers had been left dead 
upon the field. Others had been taken prison- 
ers. Others still had become hopelessly dispers- 
ed, having fled from the field of battle in di- 
verse directions, and wandered so far, in their 
terror, that they had not been able to rejoin 
their leader in his retreat. Then, great num- 
bers of those who pressed on under Guthrum's 
command, exhausted by fatigue, or spent and 
fainting from their wounds, sank down by the 
way-side to die, while their comrades, intent 
only upon their own safety, pressed incessantly 
on. The retreating army was thus, in a short 
time, reduced to a small fraction of its original 
force This remaining body, with Guthrum at 
their head, continued their retreat until they 
reaohed a castle which promised them protec- 
tion. They poured in over the drawbridge? 



A.JJ. S7S.J Saxon Victory. I9& 

The Danes shut themselves up in a castle. Elation of the Saxons 

and through the gates of this fortress in extreme 
confusion ; and feeling suddenly, and for the 
moment, entirely relieved at their escape from 
the imminence of the immediate danger, they 
shut themselves in. 

The finding of such a retreat would .ave 
been great good fortune for these wretched fu- 
gitives if there had heen any large force in the 
country to come soon to their deliverance ; but, 
as they were without provisions and without 
water, they soon be v \an to perceive that, unless 
they obtained some t.peetly help from without, 
they had only escaped the Saxon lances and 
swords to die a ten times more bitter death of 
thirst and famine ; and there was no force to 
relieve them. The army which had been thus 
defeated was the great central force of the 
Danes upon the island. The other detachments 
and independent bands which were scattered 
about the land were thunderstruck at the news 
of this terrible defeat. The Saxons, too, were 
every where aroused to the highest pitch of en- 
thusiasm at the reappearance of their king and 
the tidings of his victory. The whole country 
was in arms. Guthrum, however, shut up in 
his castle, and closely invested with Alfred's 
forces, had no means of knowing what v*~a» 
24—13 



L94 Alired the Great. [A.D. $78 

Hopeless condition of the Danes. Surrender of Guthrum. 

passing without. His numbers were so smali 
in comparison with those besieging him that it 
would have been madness for him to have at- 
tempted a sally ; and he would not surrender. 
He waited day after day, hoping against hope 
that some succor would come. His half-fam- 
ished sentinels gazed from the watch-towers of 
the castle all around, looking for some cloud of 
distant dust, 01 weapon glancing in the sun, 
which might denote the approach of friends 
coming to their rescue. This lasted fourteen 
days. At the end of that time, the number 
within this wretched prison who were raving in 
the delirium of famine and thirst, or dying in 
agony, became too great for Guthrum to per- 
sist any longer. He surrendered. Alfred was 
once more in possession of his kingdom. 

During the fourteen days that elapsed be- 
tween the victory on the field of battle and the 
final surrender of Guthrum, Alfred, feeling that 
the power was now in his hands, had had am- 
ple time to reflect on the course which he should 
pursue with his subjugated enemies ; and the 
result to which he came, and the measure which 
he adopted, evince, as much as any act of his 
life, the greatness, and originality, and noble 
ness of his character. Here were two distinct 



A.D.878.] Saxon Victory. 193 

The Saxons and Danes equally aggressors. Their relation* 

and independent races on the same island, that 
had been engaged for many years in a most 
fierce and sanguinary struggle, each gaining at 
times a temporary and partial victory, but nei- 
ther able entirely to subdue or exterminate the 
other. The Danes, it is true, might be consid- 
ered as the aggressors in this contest, and, as 
such, wholly in the wrong ; but then, on the 
other hand, it was to be remembered that the 
ancestors of the Saxons had been guilty of pre- 
cisely the same aggressions upon the Britons, 
who held the island before them ; so that the 
Danes were, after all, only intruding upon in- 
truders. It was, besides, the general maxim of 
the age, that the territories of the world were 
prizes open for competition, and that the right 
to possess and to govern vested naturally and 
justly in those who could show themselves the 
strongest. Then, moreover, the Danes had been 
now for many years in Britain. Vast numbers 
had quietly settled on agricultural lands. They 
had become peaceful inhabitants. They had 
established, in many cases, friendly relations 
with the Saxons. They had intermarried with 
them ; and the two races, instead of appearing, 
as at first, simply as two hostile armies of com- 
batants contending on the field, had been, fo? 



196 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 878 



impossibility of expelling the Danes. Wise policy 

some years, acquiring the character of a mixed 
population, established and settled, though het- 
erogeneous, and, in some sense, antagonistic 
still To root out all these people, intruders 
though they were, and send them back again 
across the German Ocean, to regions where 
they no longer had friends or home, would have 
been a desperate — in fact, an impossible under 
taking. 

Alfred saw ail these things. He took, in fact, 
a general, and comprehensive, and impartial 
view of the whole subject, instead of regarding 
it, as most conquerors in his situation would 
have done, in a partisan, that is, an exclusively 
Saxon point of view He saw how impossible 
it was to undo what had been done, and wisely 
determined to take things as they were, ana 
make the best of the present situation of affairs, 
leaving the past, and aiming only at accom- 
plishing the best that was now attainable for 
the future. It would be well if all men who 
are engaged in quarrels which they vainly en- 
deavor to settle by discussing and disputing 
about what is past and gone, and can now nev- 
er be recalled, would follow his example. In 
all such cases we should say, let the past be for- 
gotten, and, taking things as they now are, \e\ 



A.D. 878.1 Saxon Victory. ly? 

Alfred V generosity. Terms offered Gu thrum 

as see what we can do to secure peace and hap- 
piness in future. 

The policy which Alfred determined to adopt 
was, not to attempt the utter extirpation of the 
Danes from England, but only to expel the arm- 
id forces from his own dominions, allowing 
those peaceably disposed to remain in quiet pos- 
session of such lands in other parts of the isl- 
and as they already occupied. Instead, there- 
fore, of treating Guthrum with harshness and 
severity as a captive enemy, he told him that 
he was willing not only to give him his liberty, 
out to regard him, on certain conditions, as a 
friend and an ally, and allow him to reign as a 
jcing over that part of England which his coun- 
trymen possessed, and which was beyond Al- 
fred's own frontiers. These conditions were, 
that Guthrrii was to go away with all his 
forces and followers out of Alfred's kingdom, 
under solemn oaths never to return ; that he 
was to confine himself thenceforth to the south- 
eastern part of England, a territory from which 
the Saxon government had long disappeared , 
that he was to give hostages for the faithful ful- 
fillment of these stipulations, without, however 
receiving on his part any hostages from Alfred. 
There was «ne other stipulation, more extraoi* 



i98 Alfred the Greai [A.D. S78 

Guthrum agrees to become a Christian. Sudden change in his affaire 

dinary than all the rest, viz., that Guthrum 
should become a convert to Christianity, and 
publicly avow his adhesion to the Saxon faith 
by being baptized in the presence of the leaders 
of both armies, in the most open and solemn 
manner. In this proposed baptism, Alfred him- 
self would stand his ^udfather. 

This idea of winning over a pagan soldier to 
the Christian Church as the price of his ransom 
from famine and death in the castle to which 
his direst enemy had driven him — this enemy 
himself, the instrument thus of so rude a mode 
of conversion, to be the sponsor of the new com- 
municant's religious profession — was one in 
keeping, it is true, with the spirit of the times, 
bur still it is one which, under the circumstan- 
ces of this case, only a mind of great original- 
ity and power would have conceived of or at- 
tempted to carry into effect. Guthrum might 
well be astonished at this unexpected turn in 
his affairs. A few days before, he saw himself 
on the brink of utter and absolute destruction 
Shut up with his famished soldiers in a gloomy 
castle, with the enemy, bitter and implacable, 
as he supposed, thundering at the gates, the 
only alternatives before him seemed to be tc 
die of starvation and phrensy within the wall* 



A.D.S78.] Saxon Victory. 19& 

The terme accepted. The Danes liberated 

which covered him, or by a cruel military exe- 
cution in the event of surrender. He surren- 
dered at last, as it would seem, only because 
the utmost that human cruelty can inflict is 
more tolerable than the horrid agonies of thirst 
and hunger. 

We can not but hope that Alfred was led, in 
some degree, by a generous principle of Chris- 
tian forgiveness in proposing the terms which he 
did to his fallen enemy, and also that Guthrum, 
in accepting them, was influenced, in part at 
least, by emotions of gratitude and by admiration 
of the high example of Christian virtue which 
Vlfred thus exhibited. At any rate, he did ac- 
cept them. The army of the Danes were liber- 
ated from their confinement, and commenced 
their march to the eastward ; Guthrum him- 
self, attended by thirty of his chiefs and many- 
other followers, became Alfred's guest for some 
weeks, until the most pressing measures for the 
organization of Alfred's government could be at- 
tended to, and the necessary preparations for 
the baptism could be made. At length, some 
weeks after the surrender, the parties all re- 
paired together, now firm friends and allies, to 
a place near Ethelney, where the ceremony of 
baptism was to be performed. 



200 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 878 



f robable effects of Guthrum's baptism. The ceremonies 

The admission of this pagan chieftain into 
the Christian Church did not probably mark 
any real change in his opinions on the question 
of paganism and Christianity, but it was not the 
less important in its consequences on that ac- 
sount. The moral effect of it upon the minds of 
his followers was of great value. It opened the 
way for their reception of the Christian faith, 
if any of them should be disposed to receive 
it. Then it changed wholly the feeling which 
prevailed among the Saxon soldiery, and also 
the Saxon chieftains, in respect to these ene- 
mies. A great deal of the bitterness of exas- 
peration with which they had regarded them 
arose from the fact that they were pagans, the 
haters and despisers of the rites and institutions 
of religion. Guthrum's approaching baptism 
was to change all this ; and Alfred, in leading 
him to the baptismal font, was achieving, in 
the estimation not only of all England, but of 
France and of Rome, a far greater and nobler 
victory than when he conquered his armies on 
the field of Edendune. 

The various ceremonies connected with the 
baptism were protracted through several days. 
They were commenced at a place called Aulre, 
near Ethelney, where there was a religious es- 



A.D.878.] Jaxon Victory 20\ 

Guthrum's new name. Public festivitiea 

tablishment and priests to perform the necessary 
*ites. The new convert was clothed in white 
garments — the symbol of purity, then custom- 
trily worn by candidates for baptism — and was 
covered with a mystic veil. They gave Guth- 
rum a new name — a Christian, that is, a Saxon 
name. Converted pagans received always a 
new name, in those days, when baptized ; and 
our common phrase, the Christian name, has 
arisen from the circumstance. Guthrum's 
Christian name was Ethelstan. Alfred was 
his godfather. After the baptism the whole 
party proceeded to a town a few miles distant, 
which Alfred had decided to make a royal res- 
idence, and there other ceremonies connected 
with the new convert's admission to the Church 
were performed, the whole ending with a series 
of great public festivities and rejoicings. 

A very full and formal treaty of peace and 
amity was now concluded between the two sov- 
ereigns ; for Guthrum was styled in the treaty 
a king) and was to hold, in the dominions as- 
signed him to the eastward of Alfred's realm, 
an independent jurisdiction. He agreed, how- 
ever, by this treaty, to confine himself, from that 
time forward, to the limits thus assigned. If 
the reader wishes to see what part of England 



202 Alfred the Great. [A.D. $7* 

Treaty between Alfred and Guthrum. Kingdom of the latter 

it was which Guthrum was thus to hold, he can 
easily identify it by finding upon the map the 
following counties, which now occupy the same 
territory, viz., Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge- 
shire, Essex, and part of Herefordshire. The 
population of all this region consisted already, 
in a great measure, of Danes. It was the part 
most easily accessible from the German Ocean, 
by means of the Thames and the Med way, and 
it had, accordingly, become the chief seat of the 
Northmen's power. 

Guthrum not only agreed to confine himself 
to the limits thus marked out, but also to con- 
sider himself henceforth as Alfred's friend and 
ally in the event of any new bands of adven- 
turers arriving on the coast, and to join Alfred 
in his endeavors to resist them. In hoping that 
he would fulfill this obligation, Alfred did not 
rely altogether on Guthrum's oaths or prom- 
ises, or even on the hostages that he held. He 
had made it for his interest to fulfill them. By 
giving him peaceable possession of this terri- 
tory, after having, by his victories, impressed 
him with a very high idea of his own great mil- 
itary resources and power, he had placed his 
conquered enemy under very strong induce- 
ments to be satisfied with what he now po« 



A.D 87J5.J Saxon Victory. 208 



Guthrum faithful to his covenant. Fundamental laws settled. 

sessed, and to make common cause with Alfred 
in resisting the encroachments of any new ma- 
rauders. 

Guthrum was therefore honestly resolved on 
keeping his faith with his new ally ; and when 
ill these stipulations were made, and the treat- 
ies were signed, and the ceremonies of the bap- 
tism all performed, Alfred dismissed his guest, 
with many presents and high honors. 

There is some uncertainty whether Alfred 
did not, in addition to the other stipulations un- 
der which he bound Guthrum, reserve to him- 
self the superior sovereignty over Guthrum's 
dominions, in such a manner that Guthrum, 
though complimented in the treaty with the 
title of king, was, after ail, only a sort of vice 
roy, holding his throne under Alfred as his liege 
lord. One thing is certain, that Alfred took 
care, in his treaty with Guthrum, to settle ali 
the fundamental laws of both kingdoms, mak- 
ing them the same for both, as if he foresaw 
the complete and entire union which was ulti 
mately to take place, and^ wished to facilitate 
the accomplishment of this end by having the 
political and social constitution of the two states 
brought at once into harmony with each other. 

It proved, in the end, that Guthrum was 



204 Alfred the Great. [A.D 878 

Guth.rurn'8 services. Alfred organizes his government 

faithful to his obligations and promises. He 
settled himself quietly in the dominions which 
the treaty assigned to him, and made no more 
attempts to encroach upon Alfred's realm, 
Whenever other parties of Danes came upon 
the coast, as they sometimes did, they found no 
favor or countenance from him. They came, 
in some cases, expecting his co-operation ar?d 
aid ; but he always refused it, and by this dis- 
couragement, as well as by open resistance, he 
drove many bands away, turning the tide of 
invasion southward into France, and other re- 
gions on the Continent. Alfred, in the mear 
time, gave his whole time and attention to or- 
ganizing the various departments of his govern- 
ment, to planning and building towns, repair- 
ing and fortifying castles, opening roads, estab- 
lishing courts of justice, and arranging and set- 
ting in operation the complicated machinery 
necessary in the working of a well-conducted 
social state. The nature and operation of some 
of his plans will be described more fully in the 
next chapter. 

In concluding this chapter, we will add, that 
notwithstanding h's victory over Guthrum, and 
Guthrum's subsequent good faith, Alfred never 
enjoyed an absolute peace, but during the whole 



A.D.878.] Saxon Victory. 205 

Continued trouble from the Danes. Alfred's character 

remainder of his reign was more or less moles! 
ed with parties of Northmen, who came, from 
time to time, to land on English shores, and 
who met sometimes with partial and temporary 
success in their depredations. The most se 
rious of these attempts occurred near the close 
of Alfred's life, and will be hereafter described. 

The generosity and the nobleness of mind 
which Alfred manifested in his treatment of 
Guthrum made a great impression upon man- 
kind at the time, and have done a great deal tc 
elevate the character of our hero in every sub- 
sequent age. All admire such generosity in 
others, however slow they may be to practice it 
themselves. It seems a very easy virtue when 
we look upon an exhibition of it like this, where 
we feel no special resentments ourselves against 
the person thus nobly forgiven. We find it, 
However, a very hard virtue to practice, when 
a case occurs requiring the exercise of it to- 
ward a person who has done us an injury. Let 
those who think that in Alfred's situation they 
should have acted as he did, look around upon 
the circle of their acquaintance, and see whether 
it is easy for them to pursue a similar course 
toward their personal enemies — t!"ose who have 



206 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 878. 

Alfred's kindness of heart The child Ln the eagle's nest 

thwarted and circumvented them in their plans, 
or slandered them, or treated them with insult 
and injury. By observing how hard it is to 
change our own resentments to feelings of for- 
giveness and good will, we can the better ap- 
preciate Alfred's treatment of Guthrum. 

Alfred was famed during all his life for the 
kindness of his heart, and a thousand stories 
w«re told in his day of his interpositions to right 
me wronged, to relieve the distressed, to com- 
fort the afflicted, and to befriend the unhappy. 
On one occasion, as it is said, when he was 
hunting in a wood, he heard the piteous cries 
of a child, which seemed to come from the air 
above his head. It was found, after much look- 
ing and listening, that the sounds proceeded 
from an eagle's nest upon the top of a lofty tree. 
On climbing to the nest, they found the child 
within, screaming with pain and terror. The 
eagle had carried it there in its talons for a prey 
Alfred brought down the boy, and, after making 
fruitless inquiries to find its father and mother, 
idopted him for his own son, gave him a good 
education, and provided for him well in his fu- 
ture life. The story was all, very probably, a 
fabrication ; but the characters of men are some- 
times very strikingly indicated by the kind of 
stories that are invented concerning them. 




"if v J^y^^- 

PoKTRAIT OF At.FRTP. 



A D.»b0-890.] Alfred's Reig.v 2^9 

A-fred'a humanity and benevolence. His love of pe*e« 



Chapter XL 

Character of Alfred's Reign. 

PJERHAPS the chief aspect in which King 
■*- Alfred's character has attracted the atten- 
tion of mankind, is in the spirit of humanity 
and benevolence which he manifested, and in 
the efforts which he made to cultivate the arts 
of peace, and to promote the intellectual and 
social welfare of his people, notwithstanding 
the warlike h9 u; ts to which he was accustomed 
in his early years, and the warlike influences 
which surrounded him during all his life. Ev 
ery thing in the outward circumstances ld 
which he was placed tended to make him a 
mere military hero. He saw, however, the su- 
perior greatness and glory of the work of laying 
the foundations of an extended and permanent 
power, by a ranging in the best possible man- 
ner the internal organization of the social state. 
He saw that intelligence, order, justice, and 
system, prevailing in and governing the institu- 
tions of a country, constitute the true elements 

of its greatness, and he acted aocordinglv 

24—14 



210 Alfred the Great. [A.D.880-890 



Character of the materials upon which Alfred operated. 

Tt is true, he had good materials to work with 
He had the Anglo-Saxon race to act upon at 
the time, a race capable of appreciating and 
entering into his plans ; and he has had the 
same race to carry them on, for the ten centu- 
ries which have elapsed since he laid his foun- 
dations. As no other race of men but Anglo- 
Saxons could have produced an Alfred, so, prob 
ably, no other race could have carried out such 
plans an Alfred formed. It is a race which has 
always been distinguished, like Alfred their 
great prototype and model, for a certain cool 
and intrepid energy in war, combined with and 
surpassed by the industry, the v*t^m, the eflE 
ciency, and the perseverance with which they 
pursue and perfect all the arts of peace. Thev 
systematize every thing. They arrange — they 
organize. Every thing in their hands takes 
form, and advances to continual improvement 
Even while the rest of the world remain inert 
they are active. When the arts and improve- 
ments of life are stationary among other na 
tions, they are always advancing with them 
It is a people that is always making new dis- 
coveries, pressing forward to new enterprises, 
framing new laws, constituting new combina- 
tions and developing new powers ; until now 



- 



A.D. 880-890.] Alfrk >'s Reign 211 



The difficulties with which Alfred had to contend. 



after the lapse of a thousand years, the little 
island feeds and clothes, directly or indirectly , 
a very large portion of the human race, and di- 
rects, in a great measure, the politics of the 
world. 

Whether Alfred reasoned upon the capaci- 
ties of the people whom he ruled, and foresaw 
their future power, or whether he only followed 
the simple impulses of his own nature in the 
plans which he formed and the measures which 
he adopted, we can not know ; but we know 
that, in fact, he devoted his chief attention, dur- 
ing all the years of his reign, to perfecting in 
the highest degree the internal organization of 
his realm, considered as a great social commu- 
nity. His people were in a very rude, and, in 
fact, almost half-savage state when he com- 
menced qis career. He had every thing to do, 
and yet he seems to have had no favorable op- 
portunities for doing any thing. 

In the first place, his time and attention were 
distracted, during his whole reign, by continued 
difficulties and contentions with various hordes 
of Danes, even after his peace with Guthrum 
These troubles, and the military preparations 
and movements to which they would naturally 
give rise, would seem to have been sufficient tc 



212 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 880-890 

Alfred's sufferings from disease His patienou 

have occupied fully all the powers of his mind, 
and to have prevented him from doing any 
thing effectual for the internal improvement of 
his kingdom. 

Then, besides, there was another difficulty 
with which Alfred had to contend, which one 
might have supposed would have paralyzed all 
his energies. He suffered all his life from some 
mysterious and painful internal disease, the na- 
ture of which, precisely, is not known, as the 
allusions to it, though very frequent through- 
out his life, are very general, and the physi 
ciahs of the day, who probably were not very 
skillful, could not determine what it was, or da 
any thing effectual to relieve it. The disease, 
whatever it may have been, was a source of 
continual uneasiness, and sometimes of extreme 
and terrible suffering. Alfred bore all the pain 
which it caused him with exemplary patience ; 
and, though he could not always resist the ten- 
dency to discouragement and depression with 
which the perpetual presence of such a torment 
wears upon the soul, he did not allow it to di- 
minish his exertions, or suspend, at any time, 
the ceaseless activity with which he labored for 
the welfare of the people of his realm. 

Alfred attached great importance to the edu- 



.\.D. 880-890.] Alfred's Reign. 213 

Alfred's interest in learning. Asser, the Welsh bishop 



cation of his peuple. It was not possible, in 
those days, to educate the mass, for there were 
no books, and no means of producing them in 
sufficient numbers to supply any geneial de- 
mand. Books, in those days, were extremely 
costly, as they had all to be written laboriously 
by hand. The great mass of the population, 
therefore, who were engaged in the daily toil of 
cultivating the land, were necessarily left in 
ignorance ; but Alfred made every effort in his 
power to awaken a love for learning and tho 
arts amon fe the higher classes. He set them, 
m fact, an efficient example in his own case, by 
Dressing forward diligently in his own studies, 
even in the busiest periods of his reign. The 
spirit and manner in which he did this are well 
illustrated by the plan he pursued in studying 
Latin. It was this : 

He had a friend in his court, a man of great 
literary attainments and great piety, whose 
name was Asser. Asser was a bishop in Wales 
when Alfred first heard of his fame as a man 
of learning and abilities, and Alfred sent for 
him to come to his court and make him a visit. 
Alfred was very much pleased with what he 
saw of Asser at this interview, and proposed to 
him to leave his preferments in Wales, which 



214 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 880-^90 

Alfred's proposals to Asser. Asser's acceptance 

were numerous and important, and come inte 
his kingdom, and he would give him greatei 
preferments there. Asser hesitated. Alfred 
then proposed to him to spend six months every 
year in England, and the remaining six in 
Wales. Asser said that he could not give an 
answer even to this proposal till he had return- 
ed home and consulted with the monks and 
other clergy under his charge there. He would, 
however, he said, at least come back and see 
Alfred again within the next six months, and 
give him his final answer. Then, after having 
spent four days in Alfred's court, he went away. 
The six months passed away and he did not 
return. Alfred sent a messenger into Wales 
to ascertain the reason. The messenger found 
that Asser was sick. His friends, however, had 
advised that he should accede to Alfred's pro- 
posal to spend six months of the year in En- 
gland, as they thought that by that means, 
through his influence with Alfred, he would be 
the better able to protect and advance the in- 
terests of their monasteries and establishment* 
in Wales. So Asser went to England, and be- 
came during six months in the year Aifred'9 
constant friend and teacher. In the course of 
time, Alfred placed him at the head of some of 



A.D. 880-890. J Alfred's Reign. 215 

Alfred and Asser. Alfred • Latin book. 



the most important establishments and ecclesi- 
istical charges in England. 

One day — it was eight or nine years alter 
Alfred's victory over Guthrum and settlement 
of the kingdom — the king and Asser were en- 
gaged in conversation in the royal apartments, 
and Asser quoted some Latin phrase with which, 
on its being explained, Alfred was very much 
pleased, and he asked Asser to write it down 
fur him in his book. So saying, he took fr m 
his pocket a little book of prayers and ther 
pieces of devotion, which he was accustomed to 
carry with him for daily use. It was, of course, 
in manuscript. Asser looked over it to find a 
space where he could write the Latin quotation, 
out there was no convenient vacancy. He then 
proposed to Alfred that he should make for him 
another small book, expressly for Latin quota- 
tions, with explanations of their meaning, if 
Alfred chose to make them, in the Anglo-Saxon 
tongue. Alfred highly approved of this sugges- 
tion. The bishop prepared the little parchment 
volume, and it became gradually filled with 
passages of Scripture, in Latin, and striking 
sentiments, briefly and tersely expressed, ex- 
tracted from the writings of the Roman poets 
«>r of the fathers of the Church. Alfred wrote 



216 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 880-890 

Alfred becomes an author. Printing and circulation of book* 

opposite to each quotation its meaning, express- 
ed in his own language ; and as he made the 
book his constant companion, and studied it 
continually, taking great interest in adding to 
its stores, it was the means of communicating 
to him soon a very considerable knowledge of 
the language, and was the foundation of that 
extensive acquaintance with it which he subse- 
quently acquired. 

Alfred made great efforts to promote in every 
way the intellectual progress and improvement 
of his people. He wrote and translated books, 
which were published so far as it was possible 
to publish books in those days, that is, by hav- 
ing a moderate number of copies transcribed 
and circulated among those who could read 
them. Such copies were generally deposited at 
monasteries, and abbeys, and other such places, 
where learned men were accustomed to assem 
ble. These writings of Alfred exerted a wide 
influence during his day. They remained in 
manuscript until the art of printing was invent- 
ed, when many of them were printed ; others 
remain in manuscript in the various museums 
of England, where visitors look at them as cu- 
riosities, all worn and corroded as they are, and 
almost illegible by time. These books, though 



A.D. 880--890.] Alfred's Re ion. 217 

nfluence of Alfred's writings. Founding of the University of Oxford 

they exerted great influence at the time wnen 
they were written, are of little interest or value 
now. They express ideas in morals and philos- 
ophy, some of which have become so universal- 
y diffused as to be commonplace at the pres- 
ent day, while others would now be discarded, 
as not in harmony with the ideas or the philos- 
ophy of the times. 

One of the greatest and most important of 
the measures which Alfred adopted for the in 
tellectual improvement of his people was the 
founding of the great University of Oxford. 
Oxford was Alfred's residence and capital dur- 
ing a considerable part of his reign. It is situ- 
ated on the Thames, in the bosom of a delight- 
ful valley, where it calmly reposes in the midst 
of fields and meadows as verdant and beautiful 
as the imagination can conceive. There was a 
monastery at Oxford before Alfred's day, and 
for many centuries after his time acts of endow- 
ment were passed and charters granted, some 
of which were perhaps of greater importance 
than those which emanated from Alfred him- 
self. Thus some carry back the history of 
this famous university beyond Alfred's time ; 
others consider that the true origin of the pres- 
ent establishment should be assigned to a latei 



218 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 880-890 



Situation of Oxford. Measures of Alfred 

date than his day. Alfred certainly adopted 
very important measures at Oxford for organ- 
izing and establishing schools of instruction and 
assembling learned men there from various 
parts of the world, so that he soon made it a 
great center and seat of learning, and mankind 
have been consequently inclined to award to 
him the honor of having laid the foundations of 
the vast superstructure which has since grown 
up on that consecrated spot. Oxford is now a 
city of ancient and venerable colleges. Its si- 
lent streets ; its grand quadrangles ; its church- 
es, and chapels, and libraries ; its secluded 
walks ; its magnificent, though old and crum- 
oling architecture, make it, even to the pass- 
ing traveler, one of the wonders of England ; 
and by the influence which it has exerted for 
the past ten centuries on the intellectual ad- 
vancement of the human race, it is really one 
of the wonders of the world. 

Alfred repaired the castles which had become 
dilapidated in the wars ; he rebuilt the ruined 
cities, organized municipal governments for 
them, restored the monasteries, and took great 
pains to place men of learning and piety in 
charge of them. He revised the laws of the 
kingdom, and arranged and system a ti rod them 



AD. 880-890.] Alfred's Reign. 219 

Alfred's personal character. Reforms and improvement* 

in the most perfect manner which was possible 
in times so rude 

Alfred's personal character gave him great 
influence among his people, and disposed them 
to acquiesce readily in the vast innovations and 
improvements which he introduced — changes 
which were so radical and affected so extensive- 
ly the whole structure of society, and all the 
customs of social life, that any ordinary sover- 
eign would have met with great opposition in 
his attempt to introduce them ; but Alfred pos- 
sessed such a character, and proceeded in such 
a way in introducing his improvements and^re- 
forms, that he seems to have awakened no jeal 
ousy and to have aroused no resistance. 

He was of a very calm, quiet, and placid 
temper of mind. The crosses and vexations 
which disturb and irritate ordinary men seemed 
never to disturb his equanimity. He was pa- 
tient and forbearing, never expecting too much 
of those whom he employed, or resenting angri- 
ly the occasional neglects or failures in duty on 
their part, which he well knew must frequently 
occur. He was never elated by prosperity, nor 
made moody and morose by the turning of the 
tide against him. In a word, he was a philos- 
oDher, of a calm, and quiet, and happy temper- 



220 Alfrei the Great, f A.D. e G 0-890 



Alfred's equanimity. His high and noble aim* 

amcnt. He knew well that every man in going 
through life, whatever his rank and station, 
must encounter the usual alternations of sun- 
shine and storm. He determined that these 
alternations should not mar his happiness, nor 
disturb the repose of his soul ; that he would, 
on the other hand, keeping all quiet within, 
press calmly and steadily forward in the ac- 
complishment of the vast objects to whicn he 
felt that his life was to be given. He was, ac- 
cordingly, never anxious or restless, never im- 
patient or fretful, never excited or wild ; but 
always calm, considerate, steady, and persever- 
ing, he infused his own spirit into all around 
him. They saw him governed by fixed and per- 
manent principles of justice and of duty in all 
that he planned, and in every measure that he 
resorted to in the execution of his plans. It 
was plain that his great ruling motive was a 
true and honest desire to promote the welfare 
and prosperity of his people, and the internal 
peace, and order, and happiness of his realm 
without any selfish or sinister aims of his own. 
In fact, it seemed as if there were no selfish 
or sinister ends that possessed any charms foi 
Alfred's mind. He had no fondness or taste 
(or luxury or pleasure, or for aggrandizing him 



A.D.880-890.] Alfred's Reign. 221 

Alfred's solicitude for his country. Ilia diligence, 

self in the eyes of others by pomp and parade. 
It is true that, as was stated in a former chap- 
ter, he was charged in early life with a tenden- 
cy to some kinds of wrong indulgence ; but 
these charges, obscure and doubtful as they 
were, pertained only to the earliest periods of 
his career, before the time of his seclusion. 
Through all the middle and latter portions of 
his life, the sole motive of his conduct seems to 
have been a desire to lay broad, and deep, and 
lasting foundations for the permanent welfare 
and prosperity of his realm. 

It resulted from the nature of the measures 
which Alfred undertook to effect, that they 
brought upon him daily a vast amount of labor 
as such measures always involve a great dea, 
of minute detail. Alfred could only accomplish 
this great mass of duty by means of the most 
unremitting industry and the most systematic! 
and exact division of time. There were no 
clocks or watches in those days, and yet it was 
very necessary to have some plan for keeping 
the time, in order that his business might go on 
regulai -y, and also that the movements and op- 
erations of his large household might proceed 
without confusion. Alfred invented a plan. It 
was as follows ■ 



222 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 880-^90 

Plan for dividing time. The wax candle* 

He observed that the wax candles which were 
used in his palace and in the churches burned 
very regularly, and with greater or less rapidity 
according to their size. He ordered some ex- 
periments to be made, and finally, by means of 
them, he determined on the size of a candle 
which should burn three inches in an hour. It 
is said that the weight of wax which he used 
for each candle was twelve pennyweights, that 
is, but little more than half an ounce, which 
would make, one would suppose, a taper rather 
than a candle. There is, however, great doubt 
about the value of the various denominations of 
weight and measure, and also of money used in 
those days. However this may be, the candles 
were each a foot long, and of such size that each 
would burn four hours. They were divided into 
inches, and marked, so that each inch corre- 
sponded with a third of an hour, or twenty min- 
utes. A large quantity of these candles were 
prepared, and a person in one of the chapels was 
appointed to keep a succession of them burning, 
and to ring the bells, or give the other signals, 
whatever they might be, by which the house- 
hold was regulated, at the successive periods 
of time denoted by their burning. 

As each of these candies was one foot long. 



A.D. 880-890.] Alfred's Reign. 223 

Working of the system. Introduction of glaas. 

and burned three inches in an hour, it follows 
that it would last four hours; when this time 
was expired, the attendant who had the appa- 
ratus in charge lighted another. There were, 
if course, six required for the whole twenty- 
tour hours. The system worked very well, 
Miough there was one difficulty that occasioned 
*ome trouble in the outset, which, however, was 
not much to be regretted after all, since the 
remedying of it awakened the royal ingenuity 
anew, and led, in the end, to adding to Alfred's 
other glories the honor of being the inventor of 
lanterns ! 

The difficulty was, that the wind, which 
came in very freely in those days, even in royal 
residence^, through the open windows, blew the 
flames of these horological candles about, so as 
to interfere quite seriously with the regularity 
of their burning. There was no glass for win- 
dows in those days, or, at least, very little. It 
had been introduced, it is said, in one instance, 
and that was in a monastery in the north of 
England. The abbot, whose name was Bene- 
dict, brought over some workmen from the Con 
tinent, where the arl of making ^lass windows 
had been invented, and caused them to glaze 
some windows in his monastery. It was many 



22A Alfred the Great. [A.D 880-890 

&ncietit windows. Invention of lantern* 

years after this before glass came into genera, 
use oven in churches, and palaces, and other 
oostly buildings of that kind. In the mean 
time, windows were mere openings in stone 
.vails, which could be closed only by shutters ; 
and inasmuch as when closed they excluded 
the light as well as the air, they could ordina- 
rily be shut only on one side of the apartment 
at a time — the side most exposed to the winds 
and storms. 

Alfred accordingly found that the flame of 
his candles was blown by the wind, which made 
the wax burn irregularly ; and, to remedy the 
evil, he contrived the plan of protecting them 
oy thin plates of horn. Horn, when softened by 
hot water, can easily be cut and fashioned into 
any shape, and, when very thin, is almost trans- 
parent. Alfred had these thin plates of horn 
prepared, and set into the sides of a box made 
open to receive them, thus forming a rude sort 
of lantern, within which the time-keeping can- 
dles could burn in peace. Mankind have con- 
sequently given to King Alfred the credit of 
having invented lanterns. 

Having thus completed his apparatus for the 
correct measurement of time, Alfred was en 
abled to be more and more systematio in thf 



A.JD. 880-890.] Alfred's Reign. 225 

ilfred's division of his time. Its wisdom. 

division and employment of it. One of the his- 
torians of the day relates that his plan was to 
give one third of the twenty-four hours to sleep 
and refreshment, one third to business, and the 
remain ing third to the duties of religion. Under 
this last head was probably included all those 
duties and pursuits which, by the customs of 
the day, were considered as pertaining to the 
Church, such as study, writing, and the con- 
sideration and management of ecclesiastical 
affairs. These duties were performed, in those 
days, almost always by clerical men, and in the 
retirement and seclusion of monasteries, ana 
were thus regarded as in some sense religious 
duties. We must conclude that Alfred classed 
them thus, as he was a great student and writer 
all his days, and there is no other place than 
Jlis third head to which the duties of this nature 
can be assigned. Thus understood, it was a 
very wise and sensible division ; though eight 
hours daily for any long period of time, appro- 
priated to services strictly devotional, would 
not seem to be a wise arrangement, especially 
for a man in the prime of life, and in a position 
demanding the constant exercise of Lis powers 
in the discharge of active duties. 

Thus the vears of Alfred's life passed awty. 
24—15 



226 Alfred the Great. [A D. 880-890 

Alfred's prosperity. Troubles from the Danes 

his kingdom advancing steadily all the time in 
good government, wealth, and prosperity. The 
country was not, however, yet freed entirely 
from the calamities and troubles arising from 
the hostility of the Danes. Disorders con- 
tinually broke out among those who had settled 
in the land, and, in some instances, new hordes 
of invaders came in. These were, however, in 
most instances, easily subdued, and Alfred went 
on with comparatively little interruption for 
many years, in prosecuting the arts and im- 
provements of peace. At last, however, toward 
the close of his life, a famous Northman leader, 
named Hastings, landed in England at the head 
of a large force, and made, before he was ex- 
pelled, a great deal of trouble. An account of 
this invasion will be given in the next chapter 



/UD. 893.1 The Close of Life. 22? 



nvasiou of Hastings. His exploits on the ContLoea* 



Chapter XII. 

The Close of Life 

[~T was twelve or fifteen years after Alfred's 
-■- restoration to his kingdom, by means of the 
victory at Edendune, that the great invasion 
of Hastings occurred. That victory took place 
in the year 878. It was in the years 893—897 
that Hastings and his horde of followers infested 
the island, and in 900 Alfred died, so that his 
reign ended, as it had commenced, with pro- 
tracted and desperate conflicts with the Danes. 
Hastings was an old and successful soldiei 
before he came to England. He had led a wild 
life for many years as a sea king on the Ger- 
man Ocean, performing deeds which in our day 
entail upon the perpetrator of them the infamy 
of piracy and murder, but which then entitled 
the hero of them to a very wide-spread and lion* 
orable fame. Afterward Hastings landed upon 
the Continent, and pursued, for a long time, a 
glorious career of victory and plunder in France. 
tn these enterprises, the tide, indeed, sometimes 
turned against bim. On one occasion, for in- 



228 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 893 

Hastings besieged in a church. The place of landing 

stance, he found himself obliged to give way 
before his enemies, and he retreated to a chuich, 
which he seized and fortified, making it his cas- 
tle until a more favorable aspect of his affairs 
enabled him to issue forth from this retreat and 
take the field again. Still he was generally 
very successful in his enterprises ; his terrible 
ferocity, and that of his savage followers, were 
dreaded in every part of the civilized world. 

Hastings had made one previous invasion of 
England; but Guthrum, faithful to his cove- 
nants with Alfred, repulsed him. But Guth- 
rum was now dead, and Alfred had to contend 
against his formidable enemy alone. 

Hastings selected a point on the southern 
coast of England for his landing. Guthrum's 
Danes still continued to occupy the eastern part 
of England, ami Hastings went round on the 
southern coast until he got beyond their bound- 
aries, as if he wished to avoid doing any t^uiij 
directly to awaken their hostility. Guthrum 
himself, while he lived, had evinced a determi- 
nation to oppose Hastings's plans of invasion. 
Hastings did not know, now .that Guthrum 
was dead, whether his successors would oppose 
him or not. He determined, at all events, to 
reroect their territor , and so he passed a Ion 2 



A.D. 693.] The Close of Life. 231 

Forces of the Danes. Romney Marshes. 

on the southern shore of England till he was 
beyond their limits, and then prepared to land. 

He had assembled a large force of his own, 
and he was joined, in addition to them, by many 
adventurers who came out to attach themselves 
to his expedition from the bays, and islands, and 
harbors which he passed on his way His fleet 
amounted at least to two hundred and fifty 
vessels. They arrived, at length, at a part of 
the coast where there extends a vast tract of 
low and swampy land, which was then a wild 
and dismal morass. This tract, which is known 
in modern times by the name of the Romnev 
Marshes, is of enormous extent, containing, as 
it does, fifty thousand acres. It is now re- 
claimed, and is defended by a broad and well- 
constructed dike from the inroads of the sea. 
In Hastings's time it was a vast waste of bogs 
and mire, utterly impassable except by means 
of a river, which, meandering sluggishly through 
the tangled wilderness of weeds and bushes in 
a doep, black stream, found an outlet at last into 
the sea. 

Hastings took his vessels into this river, and, 
following its turnings for some miles, he con- 
ducted them at last to a place where he found 
more solid ground to land upon. But this 



232 Alt red the Great. jA.D. &93, 

Landing of Hastings. Alfred marches to attack him. 

ground, though solid, was almost as wild and 
solitary as the morass. It was a forest of vast 
sxtent, which showed no signs of human occu- 
pancy, except that the peasants who lived in 
the surrounding regions had come down to the 
lowest point accessible, and were building a rude 
fortification there. Hastings attacked them 
and drove them away. Then, advancing a lit- 
tle further, until he found an advantageous po- 
sition, he built a strong fortress himself and es- 
tablished his army within its lines. 

His next measure was to land another force 
near the mouth of the Thames, and bring them 
to the country, until he found a strong posi- 
tion where he could intrench and fortify the 
second division as he had done the first. These 
two positions were but a short distance from 
each other. He made them the combined cen- 
ter of his operations, going from them in all di- 
rections in plundering excursions. Alfred soon 
raised an armv and advanced to attack him: 
and these operations were the commencement 
of a long and tedious war. 

A detailed description of the events of this 
war, the marches and countermarches, the bat- 
ties and sieges, the various success, first of one 
oartv and then of the other, iriven historicalW 



A.D.893.] The (.'lose of Life. 233 

Cautious policy of Alfred. Negotiation* 

in the order of time, would be as tedious to 
read as the war itself was to endure. Alfred 
was very cautious in all his operations, prefer- 
ring rather to trust to the plan of wearing out 
the enemy by cutting off their resources and 
hemming them constantly in, than to incur the 
risk of great decisive battles. In fact, watch- 
fulness, caution, and delay are generally the 
policy of the invaded when a powerful force has 
succeeded in establishing itself among them ; 
while, on the other hand, the hope of invader* 
lies ordinarily in prompt and decided action 
Alfred was well aware of this, and made all his 
arrangements with a view to cutting off Hast- 
ings's supplies, shutting him up into as narrow 
a compass as possible, heading him off in all 
nis predatory excursions, intercepting all de- 
tachments, and thus reducing him at length to 
the necessity of surrender. 

At one time, soon after the war began, Hast- 
ings, true to the character of his nation for 
treachery and stratagem, pretended that he was 
ready to surrender, and opened a negotiation 
for this purpose. He agreed to leave the king- 
dom if Alfred would allow him to depart peace- 
ably, and also, which was a point of great im- 
nortance in Alfred's estimation, to ha re his two 



234 Alfred the Great. [A.D. $W6 



Treachery. Capture of Hastings's wife and cnDdren 

sons baptized. While, however, these negotia- 
tions were going on between the two camps, 
Alfred suddenly found that the main body of 
Hastings's army had stolen away in the rear, 
and were marching off by stealth to another 
part of the country. The negotiations were, of 
course, immediately abandoned, and Alfred set 
off with all his forces in full pursuit. All hopes 
of peace were given up, and the usual series of 
sieges, maneuv&rings, battles, and retreats was 
resumed again. 

On one occasion Alfred succeeded in taking 
possession of Hastings's camp, when he had left 
it in security, as he supposed, to go off for a 
time by sea on an expedition. Alfred's soldiers 
found Hastings's wife and children in the camp, 
and took them prisoners. They sent the terri- 
fied captives to Alfred, to suffer, as they sup- 
posed, the long anl cruel confinement or the 
violent death to which the usages of those days 
consigned such unhappy prisoners. Alfred bap- 
tized the children, and then sent them, with 
their mother, loaded with presents and proofs 
of kindness, back to Hastings again. 

This generosity made no impression upon 
the heart of Hastings, or, at least, it produced 
ao effect upon his conduct. He continued the 



A.D 893.] The Close of Life. 233 

Puccesses of Hastings. A turn of fortune 

war as energetically as ever. Months passed 
away and new re-enforcements arrived, until at 
length he felt strong enough to undertake an 
excursion into the very heart of the country 
He moved on for a time with triumphant suc- 
cess ; but this very success was soon the means 
of turning the current against him again. It 
aroused the whole country through which he 
was passing. The inhabitants flocked to arms. 
They assembled at every rallying point, and, 
drawing up on all sides nearer and nearer tc 
Hastings's army, they finally stopped his march, 
and forced him to call all his forces in, and in- 
trench himself in the first place of retreat that 
be could find. Thus his very success was the 
means of turning his good fortune into disaster. 
And then, in the same way, the success of 
Alfred and the Saxons soon brought disaster 
upon them too, in their turn ; for, after suc- 
ceeding in shutting Hastings closely in, and 
cutting off his supplies of food, they maintained 
their watch and ward over their imprisoned en- 
emies so closely as to reduce them to extreme 
distress — a distress and suffering which they 
thought would end in their complete and abso- 
lute submission. Instead of ending thus, how- 
ever, it aroused them to desperation. Under 



236 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 89G 



Desperate sally of the Danes. They sail up fee Tbmmet 

the influence of the phrensy which such hope- 
less sufferings produce in characters like theirs, 
they burst out one day from the place of theii 
confinement, and, after a terrible conflict, which 
choked up a river which they had to pass with 
dead bodies and dyed its waters with blood, the 
great body of the starving desperadoes made 
their escape, and, in a wild and furious excite- 
ment, half a triumph and half a retreat, they 
went back to the eastern coast of the island, 
where they found secure places of refuge to re- 
ceive them. 

In the course of the subsequent campaigns, 
a party of the Danes came up the River Thame> 
with a fleet of their vessels, and an account is 
given by some of the ancient historians of a 
measure which Alfred resorted to to entrap 
them, which would seem to be scarcely credible. 
The account is, that he altered the course of 
the river by digging new channels for it, so as 
to leave the vessels all aground, when, of course, 
they became helpless, and fell an easy prey tc 
the attacks of their enemies. This is, at lea^t, 
a very improbable statement, for a river like the 
Thames occupies always the lowest channel of 
the land through which it passes to the sea 
Besides, such a river, in order that it should be 



AJD.89G.] The Close of Life. 23? 

Story of the diversion of the Thames. The Danes lose ground. 

possible for Vessels to ascend it from the ocean, 
must have the surface of its water very near 
the level of the surface of the ocean. There 
tan, tnerefore, be no place tc which such waters 
'xmld be drawn ofT, unless into a valley below 
the level of the sea. All such valleys, when- 
ever they exist in the interior of a country, 
necessarily get filled with water from brooks 
and rains, and so become lakes or inland seas 
It is probable, therefore, that it was some other 
operation which Alfred performed to imprison 
the hostile vessels in the river, more possible in 
its own nature than the drawing off of the wa- 
fers of the Thames from their ancient bed. 

Year after year passed on, and, though neither 
the Saxons nor the Danes gained any very per- 
manent and decisive victories, the invaders were 
gradually losing ground, being driven from one 
intrenchment and one stronghold to another, 
until, at last, their only places of refuge were 
their ships, and the harbors along the margin 
of the sea. Alfred followed on and occupied the 
country as fast as the enemy was driven away ; 
and when, at last, they began to seek refuge in 
tneir ships, he advanced to the shore, and began 
to form plans for building ships, and manning 
and equipping a fleet, to pursue his retirn? ^n- 



238 Alfrei the Great. jA.D. »96 

Alfred builds a fleet It sails for the Isle of Wight 

emiss upon their own element. In this under- 
taking, he proceeded in the same calm, deli her. 
ate, and effectual manner, as in all his preceding 
measures. He built his vessels with great care 
He made them twice as long as those of the 
Danes, and planned them so as to make them 
more steady, mere safe, and capable of carrying 
a crew of rowers so numerous as to be more 
active and swift than the vessels of the enemy. 

When these naval preparations were made, 
Alfred began to look out for an object of attack 
on which he could put their efficiency to the 
test. He soon heard of a fleet of the North- 
men's vessels on the coast of the Isle of Wight, 
and he sent a fleet of his own ships to attack 
them. He charged the commander of this fleet 
to be sparing of life, but to capture the ships and 
take the men, bringing as many as possible to 
him unharmed. 

There were nine of the English vessels, and 
when they reached the Isle of Wight they 
found six vessels of the Danes in a harbor there 
Three of these Danish vessels were afloat, and 
came out boldly to attack Alfred's armament 
The other three were upon the shore, where 
they had been left by the tide, and were, of 
course, disabled and defenseless until the watei 



A.D. 896.] The Close of Life. 239 



Naval battle. Discomfiture of the Saxon* 

should rise and float them again. Under these 
circumstances, it would seem that the victory 
for Alfred's fleet would have been easy and sure ; 
and at first the result was, in fact, in Alfred's 
favor. Of the three ships that came out to 
meet him, two were captured, and one escaped, 
with only five men left on board of it alive. 
The Saxon ships, after thus disposing of the 
three living and moving enemies, pushed boldly 
into the harbor to attack those which were lying 
lifeless on the sands. They found, however, 
that, though successful in the encounter with 
the active and the powerful, they were destined 
to disaster and defeat in approaching the de- 
fenaeless and weak. They got aground them- 
selves in approaching the shoals on which the 
vessels of their enemies were lying. The tide 
receded and left three of the vessels on the sands, 
and kept the rest so separated and so embar- 
rassed by the difficulties and dangers of their 
situation as to expose the whole force to the 
xnost imminent danger. There was a fierce 
contest in boats and on the shore. Both parties 
suffered very severely ,* and, finally, the Danes, 
getting first released, made their escape and 
put to sea. 

Notwithstanding this partial discomfiture, 



240 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 897 

Hastings expelled. Alfred devotes himself to peaceful avocations 

Alfred soon succeeded in driving the ships of 
the Danes off his coast, and in thus completing 
r,he deliverance of his country. Hastings him- 
self went to France, where he spent the re- 
mainder of his days in some territories which 
he had previously conquered, enjoying, while he 
continued to live, and for many ages afterward, 
a very extended and very honorable fame. Such 
exploits as those which he had performed con- 
ferred, in those days, upon the hero who per- 
formed them, a very high distinction, the luster 
of which seems not to have been at all tarnished 
in the opinions of mankind by any ideas of the 
violence and wrong which the commission of 
such deeds involved. 

Alfred's dominions were now left once more 
in peace, and he himself resumed again his 
former avocations. But a very short period of 
Ms life, however, now remained. Hastings was 
finally expelled from England about 897. In 
900 or 901 Alfred died. The interval was 
spent in the same earnest and devoted efforts 
to promote the welfare and prosperity of his 
kingdom that his life had exhibited before the 
war He was engaged diligently and industri- 
ously in repairing injuries, redressing grievan 
oes, an (l rectifying every thing that was wrong 



Al). 900.] The Clcse of Life. 241 

idministration of Justice. Alfred's children. 

He exacted rigid impartiality in all the courts 
of justice ; he held public servants of every rank 
and station to a strict accountability ; and in all 
the colleges, and monasteries, and ecclesiastical 
establishments of every kind, he corrected all 
abuses, and enforced a rigid discipline, faithfuJy 
extirpating from every lurking place all sem- 
blance of immorality or vice. He did these 
things, too, with so much kindness and consid- 
eration for all concerned, and was actuated in 
all he did so unquestionably by an honest and 
sincere desire to fulfill his duty to his people 
and to God, that nobody opposed him. The good 
considered him their champion, the indifferent 
readily caught a portion of his spirit and wished 
him success, while the wicked were silenced if 
they were not changed. 

Alfred's children had grown up to maturity, 
and seemed to inherit, in some degree, their 
father's character. He had a daughter, named 
^Ethelfleda, who was married to a prince of 
Mercia, and who was famed all over England 
for the superiority of her mental powers, hei 
accomplishments, and her moral worth. The 
name of his oldest son was Edward ; he was to 
succeed Alfred on the throne, and it was a 

source now of great satisfaction to the king tr 
24—16 



242 Alfred the Great. [A.D 900 

Alfred's last days. His parting advice to hit son 

f? id this son emulating his virtues, and prepar- 
ing for an honorable and prosperous reign. Al- 
fred had warning, in the progress of his disease,, 
of the approach of his end. When he found 
that the time was near at hand, he called his 
son Edward to his side, and gave him these his 
farewell counsels, which express in few words 
the principles and motives by which his own 
life had been so fully governed. 

" Thou, my dear son, set thee now beside 
me, and T will deliver thee true instructions. 
T fe'-A that my hour is coming. My strength is 
gone ; my countenance is wasted and pale. My 
days are almost ended. We must now part 
I go to another world, and thou art to be left 
alone in the possession of all that I have thus 
far held. I pray thee, my dear child, to be a 
father to thy people. Be the children's father 
and the widow's friend. Comfort the poor, pro- 
toot and shelter the weak, and, with all thy 
might, right that which is wrong. And, my 
son, govern thyself by law. Then shall the 
Lord love thee, and God himself shall be thy 
reward. Call thou upon him to advise thee in 
all thy need, and he shall help thee to compass 
all thy desires." 



A.D. 900.] The Close of Life. 243 

Alfred's death and burial Lasting honor to his memory. 



Alfred was fifty-two years of age when he 
died. His death was universally lamented 
The body was interred in the great cathedral 
at Winchester. The kingdom passed peace- 
fully and prosperously to his son, and the ar- 
rangements which Alfred had spent his life in 
framing and carrying into effect, soon began to 
work out their happy results. The construc- 
tions which he founded stand to the present day, 
strengthened and extended rather than impair 
ed by the hand of time ; and his memory, as 
their founder, will be honored as long as any 
remembrance of the past shall endure among 
ihe minds of men. 



244 Alfred the Great f AJ). 1013 



The story of Godwia. Contentions between the Saxons and Danes 



Chapter XIII. 

The Sequel. 

fTlHE romantic story of Godwin forms th«3 
-*- sequel to the history of Alfred, leading us 
onward, as it does, toward the next great era in 
English history, that of William the Con^eror. 
Although, as we have seen in the last chap- 
ter, the immediate effects of Alfred's measures 
was to re-establish peace and order in his king- 
dom, and although the institutions which he 
founded have continued to expand and develop 
themselves down to the present day, still it must 
not be supposed that the power and prosperity 
of his kingdom and of the Saxon dynasty con- 
tinued wholly uninterrupted after his death. 
Contentions and struggles between the two great 
races of Saxons and Danes continued for some 
centuries to agitate the island. The particular 
details of these contentions have in these days, 
in a great measure, lost their interest for eJ\ but 
professed historical scholars. It is only the his- 
tory of great leading events and the lives of 
really extraor iinary men, in the annals of eaily 



A.D. 1013.] TheSehukl. 245 

William the Conqueror. Godwin's parentage 

ages, which can now attract the general atten- 
tion even of cultivated minds. The vast move- 
ments which have occurred and are occurring 
in the history of mankind in the present cen- 
tury, throw every thing except what is really 
striking and important in early history into the 
*hade. 

The era which comes next in the order of 
time to that of Alfred in the course of English 
history, as worthy to arrest general attention, 
is, as we have already said, that of William the 
Conqueror. The life of this sovereign forms the 
subject of a separate volume of this series. He 
lived two centuries after Alfred's day ; and al- 
though, for the reasons above given, a full chron- 
ological narration of the contentions between the 
Saxon and Danish lines of kings which took 
place during this interval would be of little in- 
terest or value, some general knowledge of the 
state of the kingdom at this /time is important, 
and may best be communicated in connection 
with the story of Godwin. 

Godwin was by birth a Saxon peasant, of 
Warwickshire. At the time when he arrived 
at manhood, and was tending his father's flocks 
and herds like other peasants' sons, the Saxons 
and the Danes were at war. It seems that one 



246 Alfred the Great. [A. D. 1013 

Ethelred. His marriage. Canute the Dane 

of Alfred's descendants, named Ethelred, dis- 
pleased his people by his misgovernment, and 
was obliged to retire from England. ITe went 
across the Channel, and married there the sistei 
af a Norman chief named Richard. Her name 
was Emma. Ethelred hoped by this alliance to 
obtain Richard's assistance in enabling him to 
recover his kingdom. The Danish population, 
however, took advantage of his absence to put 
one of their own princes upon the thrcne. His 
name was Canute. He figures in English histo- 
ry, accordingly, among the other English kings, 
as Canute the Dane, that appellation being giv- 
en him to mark the distinction of his origin in 
respect to the kings w T ho preceded and followed 
him, as they were generally of the Saxon line. 

It was this Canute of whom the famous story 
is told that, in order to rebuke his flatterers, 
who, in extolling his grandeur and power, had 
represented to him that even the elements were 
subservient to his will, he took his stand ujvrn 
the sea-shore when the tide was coming in, with 
jis flatterers by his side, and commanded the 
rising waves not to approach his royal feet. He 
^ept his sycophantic courtiers in this ridiculous 
position until the encroaching waters drove them 
away, and then dismissed them overwhelmed 



A.D. 1013.J The Sequel. 24: 



War between Ethelred and Canute. Death of Ethelred 

with cc nfusion. The story is told in a thousand 
different ways, and with a great variety of dif- 
ferent embellishments, accoiding to the fancj 
of the several narrators ; all that there is now 
any positive evidence for believing, however, is, 
that probably some simple incident of the kind 
occurred, out of which the stories have grown. 
Canute did not hold his kingdom in peaca 
Ethelred sent his son across the Channel into 
England to negotiate with the Anglo-Saxon 
powers for his own restoration to the throne. 
An arrangement was accordingly made with 
them, and Ethelred returned, and a violent civil 
war immediately ensued between Ethelred and 
the Anglo-Saxons on the one hand, and Canute 
and the Danes on the other. At length Ethel- 
red fell, and his son Edmund, who was at the 
time of his death one of his generals, succeeded 
him. Emma and his two other sons had been 
left in Normandy. Edmund carried on the war 
against Canute with great energy. One of his 
battles was fought in the county of Warwick, 
in the heart of England, where the peasant God. 
wir lived. In this battle the Danes were de- 
feated, and the discomfited generals fled in all 
directions from the field wherever they saw the 
"eadiest hope of concealment or safety. One of 



248 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 1013. 

Ulf In the wood. His bewilderment 



them, named Ulf,* took a by-way, which led 
him in the direction of Godwin's father's farm. 

Night came on, and he lost his way in a wood. 
Men, when flying under such circumstances 
from a field of battle, avoid always the public 
roads, and seek concealment in unfrequented 
paths, where they easily get bewildered and lost. 
Ulf wandered about all night in the forest, and 
when the morning came he found himself ex- 
hausted with fatigue, anxiety, and hunger, cer- 
tain to perish unless he could find some succor, 
and yet dreading the danger of being recognized 
as a Danish fugitive if he were to be discovered 
by any of the Saxon inhabitants of the land. 
At length he heard the shouts of a peasant who 
was coming along a solitary pathway through 
the wood, driving a herd to their pasture. Ulf 
would gladly have avoided him if he could have 
gone on without succor or help. His plan was 
to find his way to the Severn, where some Dan- 
ish ships were lying, in hopes of a refuge on 
board of them. But he was exhausted with 
hunger and fatigue, and utterly bewildered and 
lost ; so he was compelled to go forward, and 
take the risk of accosting the Saxon stranger. 

He accordingly went up to him, and asked 

* Pronounced Oolf 



A.D. 1013.J The Sequel. 249 

Qlf rescued by Godwin. His offers to Godwia. 

him his name. Godwin told him his name, and 
the name of his father, who lived, he said, at a 
little distance in the wood. While he was an- 
swering the question, he gazed very earnestly 
at the stranger, and then told him that he per- 
ceived that he was a Dane — a fugitive, he sup- 
posed, from the battle. Ulf, thus finding that 
he could not be concealed, begged Godwin not to 
betray him. He acknowledged that he was a 
Dane, and that he had made his escape from 
the battle, and he wished, he said, to find his 
way to the Danish ships in the Severn. He 
begged Godwin to conduct him there. God- 
win replied by saying that it was unreasonable 
and absurd for a Dane to expect guidance and 
protection from a Saxon. 

Ulf offered Godwin all sorts of rewards if he 
would leave his herd and conduct him to a place 
of safety. Godwin said that the attempt, were 
he to make it, would endanger his own life 
without saving that of the fugitive. The coun- 
try, he said, was all in arms. The peasantry, 
gmboldened by the late victory obtained by the 
Saxon army, were every where rising ; and al- 
though it was not far to the Severn, yet to at- 
tempt to reach the river while the country was 
in such a state of excitement would be a des- 



250 ALFREb THE GREAT. [A.D. 1013 

l'he gold ring. Concealment in the herdsman's hut 

perate undertaking. They would almost cer- 
tainly be intercepted ; and, if intercepted, their 
exasperated captors would show no mercy, God' 
win said, either to him or to his guide. 

Among the other inducements which Ulf 
offered to Godwin was a valuable gold ring, 
which he took from his finger, and which, he 
said, should be his if he would consent to be 
his guide. Godwin took the ring into his hand, 
examined it with much apparent curiosity, and 
seemed to hesitate. At length he yielded ; 
though he seems to have been induced to yield, 
not by the value of the offered gift, but by com- 
passion for the urgency of the distress which 
the offer of it indicated, for he put the ring back 
into Ulf 's hand, saying that he would not take 
any thing from him, but he would try to sav« 
him. 

Instead, however, of undertaking the appar 
eiitly hopeless enterprise of conducting Ulf to 
the Severn, he took him to his father's cottage 
and concealed him there. During the day they 
formed plans for journeying together, not to the 
ihips in the Severn, but to the Danish camp. 
They were to set forth as soon as it was dark. 
When the evening came and all was ready, and 
they were about to commence their dangerou? 



A.D. 1013.] The Sequel. 251 

Sodwin's father's charge to Ull Ulf'a fidelity. 



lourney, the old peasant, Godwin's father, with 
an anxious countenance and manner, gave Ulf 
this solemn charge : 

" This is my only son. In going forth to 
guide you under these circumstances, he puts 
his life at stake, trusting to your honor. He 
can not return to me again, as there will be no 
more safety for him among his own countrymen 
after having once been a guide for you. When, 
therefore, you reach the camp, present my son 
to your king,, and ask him to receive him into 
his service. He can not come again to me." 
Ulf promised very earnestly to do all this and 
much more for his protector ; and then bidding 
the father farewell, and leaving him in his soli- 
tude, the two adventurers sallied forth into the 
dark forest and went their way. 

After various adventures, they reached the 
camp of the Danes in safety. Ulf faithfully 
fulfilled the promises that he had made. He 
introduced Godwin to the king, and the king 
was so much pleased with the story of his gen- 
eral's escape, and so impressed with the marks 
of capacity and talent which the young Saxon 
manifested, that he gave Godwin immediately 
a military command in his army. In fact, a 
young man who could eave his home and his 



252 Alfred the GrexT, [A D. 101 13 

Godwin's rise to power. His daughter Edith 

father, and abandon the cause of his country- 
men forever under such circumstances, must 
have had something besides generosity toward 
& fugitive enemy to impel him. Godwin was 
soon found to possess a large portion of that pe- 
culiar spirit which constitutes a soldier. He 
was ambitious, stern, energetic, and always 
successful. He rose rapidly in influence and 
rank, and in the course of a few years, during 
which King Canute triumphed wholly over his 
Saxon enemies, and established his dominion 
over almost the whole realm, he was promoted 
to the rank of a king, and ruled, second only tc 
Canute himself, over the kingdom of Wessex 
one of the most important divisions of Canute's 
empire. Here he lived and reigned in peace and 
prosperity for many years. He was married, 
and he had a daughter named Edith, who was 
as gentle and lovely as her father was terrible 
and stern. They said that Edith sprung from 
Godwin like a rose from its stem of thorns. 

A writer who lived in those days, and record 
ed the occurrences of the times, says that, when 
he was a boy, his father was employed in some 
way in Godwin's palace, and that in going to 
and from school he was often met by Edith, 
who was walking, attended by her maid, Od 



A.I). 1013.] The Sequ-el. 253 



Edith's gentleness and kindness. Conquests of Canute. 

such occasions Edith would stop him, he said, 
and question him about his studies, his gram- 
mar, his logic, and his verses ; and she would 
jften draw him into an argument on those sub- 
tle points of disputation which attracted so 
much attention in those days. Then she would 
commend him for his attention and progress, 
and order her woman to make him a present 
of some money. In a word, Edith was so gen- 
tle and kind, and took so cordial an interest in 
whatever concerned the welfare and happiness 
of those around her, that she was universally 
beloved. She became in the end, as we shall 
see in due time, the English queen. 

In the mean time, while Godwin was govern- 
ing, as vicegerent, the province which Canute 
had assigned him, Canute himself extended his 
own dominion far and wide, reducing first all 
England under his sway, and then extending 
his conquests to the Continent. Edmund, the 
Saxon kmg, w r as dead. His brothers Edward 
and Alfred, the two remaining sons of Ethelred, 
were with their mother in Normandy. They, 
of course, represented the Saxon line. The Sax- 
en portion of Canute's kingdom would of course 
look to them as their future leaders. Under 
these circumstances, Canute conceived the idsa 



254 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 1013 

Canute marries Emma. Policy of this act 

of propitiating the Saxon portion of the popula- 
tion, and combining, so far as was possible, the 
claims of the two lines, by making the widow 
Emma his own wife. He made the proposal to 
her, and she accepted it, pleased with the idea 
of being once more a queen. She came to En- 
gland, and they were married. In process of 
time they had a son, who was named Hardi- 
canute, which means Canute the strong. 

Canute now felt that his kingdom was se- 
cure ; and he hoped, by making Hardicanute his 
heir, to perpetuate the dominion in his own fam- 
ily. It is true that he had older children, whom 
the Danes might look upon as more properly his 
heirs ; and Emma had also two older children, 
the sons of Ethelred, in Normandy. These the 
Saxons would be likely to consider as the right- 
ful heirs to the throne. There was danger, there- 
fore, that at his death parties would again be 
formed, and the civil wars break out anew 
Canute and Emma therefore seem to have act- 
ed wisely, and to have done all that the nature 
of the case admitted to prevent a renewal cf 
these dreadful struggles, by concentrating theii 
combined influence in favor of Hardicanute, 
who, though not absolutely the heir to either 
line, still combined, in some degree, the claims 



A.D. 1031] The Sequel. 255 

Canute's government HU death 

of both of them. Canute also did all in his pow- 
er to propitiate his Anglo-Saxon subjects. He 
devoted himself to promoting the welfare of the 
kingdom in every way. He built towns, he 
constructed roads, he repaired and endowed the 
churches. He became a very zealous Chris- 
tian, evincing the ardor of his piety, whether 
real or pretended, by all the forms and indica- 
tions common in those days. Finally, to crown 
ail, he went on a pilgrimage to Rome. He set 
out on this journey with great pomp and pa- 
rade, and attended by a large retinue, and yet 
still strictly like a pilgrim. He walked, and 
carried a wallet on his back, and a long pilgrim's 
staff in his hand. This pilgrimage, at the time 
when it occurred, filled the world with its fame. 
At length King Canute died, and then, un- 
fortunately, it proved that all his seemingly 
wise precautions against the recurrence of oivil 
wars .were taken in vain. It happened that 
Hardicanute, whom he had intended should suo- 
ceed him, was in Denmark at the time of his 
father's death. Godwin, however, proclaimed 
him king, and attempted to establish his author- 
ity, and to make Emma a sort of regent, to 
govern in his name until he could be brought 
noma The Danish chieftains, on the other 



256 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 1031 

Harold's accession. The panic 

hand, elected and proclaimed one of Canute's 
older sons, whose name was Harold ;* and they 
succeeded in carrying a large part of the coun * 
try in his favor. Godwin then summoned Em 
ma to join him in the west with such forces as 
she could command, and both parties prepared 
for war. 

Then ensued one of those scenes of terror and 
suffering which war, and sometimes the mere 
fear of war, brings often in its train. It was 
expected that the first outbreak of hostilities 
would be in the interior of England, near the 
banks of the Thames, and the inhabitants of 
the whole region were seized with apprehen- 
sions and fears, which spread rapidly, increased 
by the influence of sympathy, and excited more 
and more every day by a thousand groundless 
rumors, until the whole region was thrown into 
a state of uncontrollable panic and confusion. 
The inhabitants abandoned their dwellings, and 
fled in dismay into the eastern part of the isl- 
and, to seek refuge among the fens and marshes 
of Lincolnshire, and of the other counties around, 
Here, as has been already stated in a previous 
chapter when describing the Abbey of Croyland, 
were a great many monasteries, and convents. 

* Spelled sometime* Herald 



k.D 1037.] The Sequel. ^57 

The fugitives in the Lincolnshire fens. Alarm of thr maL^ 

and hermitages, and other religious establish- 
ments, filled with monks and nuns. The wretch- 
ed fugitives from the expected scene of we* 
crowded into this region, besieging the doors of 
the abbe}s and monasteries to beg for shelter 
or food, or protection. Some built huts among 
the willow woods which grew in the fens ; oth- 
ers encamped at the road-sides, or under the 
monastery walls, wherever they could find the 
semblance of shelter. They presented, of course, 
a piteous spectacle — men infirm with sickness 
or age, or exhausted with anxiety and fatigue ; 
children harassed and way-worn ; and helpless 
mothers, with still more helpless babes at their 
oreasts. The monks, instead of being moved 
to compassion by the sight of these unhappy 
sufferers, were only alarmed on their own ao- 
count at such an inundation of misery. They 
feared that they should be overwhelmed them- 
selves. Those whose establishments were large 
and strong, barred their doors against the sup- 
pliants, and the hermits, who lived alone in de- 
tached and separate solitudes, abandoned their 
osier huts, and fled themselves to seek some 
place more safe from such intrusions. 

And yet, after all, the whole scene was only 

a false alarm. Men acting in a panic are al 

24—17 



258 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 1037. 

The country settled. Submission of Godwin and D»ra« 

most always running into the ills which they 
think they shun. The war did not break out on 
the banks of the Thames at all. Hardicanute, 
deterred, perhaps, by the extent of the sup- 
port which the claims of Harold were receiving, 
did not venture to come to England, and Emma 
and Godwin, and those who would have taken 
their side, having no royal head to lead them, 
gave up their opposition, and acquiesced in 
Harold's reign. The fugitives in the marshes 
and fens returned to their homes ; the country 
became tranquil ; Godwin held his province as 
a sort of lieutenant general of Harold's king- 
dom, and Emma herself joined his court in 
London, where she lived with him ostensibly 
on very friendly terms. 

Still, her mind was ill at ease. Harold, 
though the son of her husband, was not her 
own son, and the ambitious spirit which led her 
to marry for her second husband her first hus- 
band's rival and enemy, that she might be a sec- 
ond time a queen / naturally made her desire 
that one of her own offspring, either on the 
Danish or the Saxon side, should inherit the 
kingdom ; for the reader must not forget that 
Emma, besides being the mother of Hardica- 
nute by her second husband Canute, the Danish 



A.D. 1037.] The Sequel. 25 c J 

Emma's family. Her plans 

sovereign, was also the mother of Edward and 
Alfred by her first husband Ethelred, of the 
Anglo-Saxon line, and that these two sons were 
in Normandy now. The family connection will 
be more apparent to the eye by the following 
scheme : 

Ethelred the Saxon. Emma. Canute the Dane. 



Edward. Hardicanute. 

Alfred. 

Harold was the son of Canute by a former 
marriage. Emma, of course, felt no maternal 
interest in him, and though compelled by cir- 
cumstances to acquiesce for a time in his pos- 
session of the kingdom, her thoughts were con- 
tinually with her own sons ; and since the at- 
tempt to bring Hardicanute to the throne had 
failed, she began to turn her attention toward 
her Norman children. 

After scheming for a time, she wrote letters 
to them, proposing that they should come to 
England. She represented to them that the 
Anglo-Saxon portion of the people were ill at 
ease under Harold's dominion, and would glad- 
1) embrace any opportunity of having a Saxon 
Ring. She had no doubt, she said, that if one 
of them were to appear in England and claim 
the throne, the people would rise in mass to 



260 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 1037. 



Alfred's expedition. Godwin goee to meet him. 

support him, and he would easily get possession 
of the realm. She invited them, therefore, to 
icpair secretly to England, to confer with her 
on the subject ; charging them, however, to 
bring very few, if any, Norman attendants with 
them, as the English people were inclined tc 
be very jealous of the influence of foreigners. 

The brothers were very much elated at re- 
ceiving these tidings ; so much so that in their 
zeal they were disposed to push the enterprise 
much faster than their mother had intended 
Instead of going, themselves, quietly and se- 
cretly to confer with her in London, they organ- 
ized an armed expedition of Norman soldiers 
The youngest, Alfred, with an enthusiasm char- 
acteristic of his years, took the lead in these 
measures. He undertook to conduct the expe- 
dition. The eldest consented to his making 
the attempt. He landed at Dover, and began 
his march through the southern part of the 
country. Godwin went forth to meet him. 
Whether he would join his standard or meet 
him as a foe, no one could tell. Emma consid- 
ered that Godwin was on her side, though even 
she had not recommended an armed invasion 
of the country 

It is very probable that Godwin himself was 



A 1037.] The Sequel. 261 



Godwin's designs. His address to the Saxon chiefs. 

ancertain, at first, what course to pursue, and 
that he intended to have espoused Prince Alfred's 
cause if he had found that it presented any rea- 
sonable prospect of success. Or he may have 
felt bound to serve Harold faithfully, now that 
he had once given in his adhesion to him. Of 
course, he kept his thoughts and plans to him- 
self, leaving the world to see only his deeds. 
But if he had ever entertained any design of 
espousing Alfred's cause, he abandoned it be- 
fore the time arrived for action. As he advanc- 
ed into the southern part of the island, he call- 
ed together the leading Saxon chiefs to hold a 
council, and he made an address to them when 
they were convened, which had a powerful in- 
fluence on their minds in preventing their de- 
ciding in favor of Alfred. However much they 
might desire a monarch of their own line, this, 
he said, was not the proper occasion for effect- 
ing their end. Alfred was, it was true, an An- 
glo-Saxon by descent, but he was a Norman by 
birth and education. All his friends and sup- 
porters were Normans. He had come now into 
the realm of England with a retinue cf Nor- 
man followers, who would, if he were success- 
ful, monopolize the honors and offices which he 
would have to bestow. He advised the Anglo- 



262 Alfred the Great. [A.D 103/ 

Defeat of Alfred. Execution of hie companions 

Saxon chieftains, therefore, to remain inactive, 
to take no part in the contest, but to wait foi 
some other opportunity to re-establish the Sax- 
on line of kings. 

The Anglo-Saxon chieftains seem to havft 
considered this good advice. At any rate, they 
made no movement to sustain young Alfred's 
cause. Alfred had advanced to the town of 
Guilford. Here he was surrounded by a force 
which Harold had sent against him. Ther 
was no hope or possibility of resistance. Ir 
fact, his enemies seem to have arrived at a tim 
when he did not expect an attack, for they en* 
tered the gates by a sudden onset, when Al- 
fred's followers were scattered about the town 
at the various houses to which they had been 
distributed. They made no attempt to defend 
themselves, but were taken prisoners one by 
one, wherever they were found. They were 
bound with cords, and carried away like ordi- 
nary criminals. 

Of Alfred's ten principal Norman companions, 
nine were beheaded. For some reason or other 
the life of one was spared. Alfred himself was 
oharged with having violated the peace of his 
country, and was condemned to lose his eyes. 
The torture of this operation, and the inflarn- 



A.D 1037.] 


The Sequel. 265 


Alfred '8 cruel fate. 


Banishment of Emma. 



niation which followed, destroyed the unhappy 
prince's life. Neither Emma nor Godwin did 
any thing to save him. It was wise policy, no 
doubt, in Emma to disavow ail connection with 
her son's unfortunate attempt, now. that it had 
failed ; and ambitions queens have to follow 
the dictates of policy instead of obeying such 
impulses as maternal love. She was, however, 
secretly indignant at the cruel fate which her 
son had endured, and she considered Godwin 
as having betrayed him. 

After this dreadful disappointment, Emma 
was not likely to make any farther attempts to 
place either of her sons upon the throne ; bul 
Harold seems to have distrusted her, for he ban- 
: shed her from the realm. She had still her 
Saxon son in Normandy, Alfred's brother Ed- 
ward, and her Danish son in Denmark. She 
went to Flanders, and there sent to Hardica- 
nute, urging him by the most earnest impor- 
tunities to come to England and assert his 
slaims to the crown. He was doubly bound to 
do it now, she said, as the blood of his murder- 
ed brother called for retribution, and he could 
have no honorable rest or peace until he had 
avenged it. 

There was no occasion, however, for Hard)- 



264 Alfred the Great. [A.D L04Q 

Accession of Hardicanute. His indignities to Harold's remain* 

oanute to attempt force for the recovery of his 
kingdom, for not many months after these 
transactions Harold died, and then the country 
seemed generally to acquiesce in Hardicanute's 
accession. The Anglo-Saxons, discouraged per- 
haps by the discomfiture of their cause in the 
person of Alfred, made no attempt to rise. 
Hardicanute came accordingly and assumed 
the throne. But, though he had nut courage 
and energy enough to encounter his rival Harold 
during his lifetime, he made what amends he 
could by offering base indignities to his body 
after he was laid in the grave. His first public 
act after his accession was to have the body 
disinterred, and, after cutting off the head, he 
threw the mangled remains into the Thames. 
The Danish fishermen in the river found them, 
and buried them again in a private sepulcher in 
London, with such concealed marks of respect 
and honor as it was In their power to bestow. 

Hardicanute also instituted legal proceedings 
to inquire into the death of Alfred. He charged 
the Saxons with having betrayed him, especial 
iy those who were rich enough to pay the fines 
by which, in those days, it was very customary 
for criminals to atone for their crimes. Godwin 
himself was brought before the tribunal, ancf 



rV 1). 1040.] The Sequel. 260 

Godwin's trial. Hia costly presents to Hardicanat* 

charged with being accessory to Alfred's death. 
Godwin positively asserted his innocence, and 
brought witnesses to prove that he was entire- 
ly free from all participation in the affair. He 
took also a much more effectual method to se- 
cure an acquittal, by making to King Hardica- 
aute some most magnificent presents. One of 
these was a small ship, profusely enriched and 
ornamented with gold. It contained eighty sol- 
diers, armed in the Danish style, with weapons 
..»f the most highly-finished and costly construc- 
tion. They each carried a Danish axe on the 
left shoulder, and a javelin in the right hand, 
both richly gilt, and they had each of them a 
bracelet on his arm, containing six ounces of 
solid gold. Such at least is the story. The 
presents might be considered in the light either 
of a bribe to corrupt justice, or in that of a fine 
to satisfy it. In fact, the line, in those days, 
between bribes to purchase acquittal and fines 
atoning for the offense seems not to have been 
yery accurately drawn. 

Hardicanute, when fairly established on his 
throne, governed his realm like a tyrant. He op- 
pressed the Saxons especially without any mer- 
cy. The effect of his cruelties, and those of the 
Danes who acted under him. was, however, not 



266 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 1041 

ilardicanute's tyranny. Ills death. Final expulsion of the Dane* 

to humble and subdue the Saxon spirit, but to 
awaken and arouse it. Plots and conspiracies 
began to be formed against him, and against 
the whole Danish party. Godwin himself oe- 
gan to meditate some decisive measures, when, 
suddenly, Hardicanute died. Godwin immedi- 
ately took the field at the head of all his forces, 
and organized a general movement throughout 
the kingdom for calling Edward, Alfred's broth- 
er, to the throne. This insurrection was tri- 
umphantly successful. The Danish forces that 
undertook to resist it were driven to the north- 
ward. The leaders were slain or put to flight. 
A remnant of them escaped to the sea-shore, 
where they embarked on board such vessels as 
they could find, and left England forever ; and 
this was the final termination of the political 
authority of the Danes over the realm of En- 
gland — the consummation and end of Alfred's 
military labors and schemes, coming surely at 
last, though deferred for two centuries after his 
decease. 

What follows belongs rather to the history 
of William the Conqueror than to that of Al- 
fred, for Godwin invited Edward, Emma's 
Norman son, to come and assume the crown : 
and his coming:, together with that of th* man* 



AJD.104L] The Sequel. 267 

Edward invited to the throne. His coronation 

Norman attendants that accompanied or follow- 
ed him, led, in the end, to the Norman invasion 
and conquest. Godwin might probably have 
made himself king if he had chosen to do so. 
His authority over the whole island was para- 
mount and supreme. But, either from a natu- 
ral sense of justice toward the rightful heir, or 
from a dread of the danger which always at- 
tends the usurping of the royal name by one 
who is not of royal descent, he made no attempt 
to take the crown. He convened a great as- 
sembly of all the estates of the realm, and there 
it was solemnly decided that Edward should be 
invited to come to England and ascend the 
throne. A national messenger was dispatched 
to Normandy to announce the invitation. 

It was stipulated in this invitation that Ed- 
ward should bring very few Normans with him. 
He came, accordingly, in the first instance, al- 
most unattended. He was received with great 
joy, and crowned king with splendid ceremo- 
nies and great show, in the ancient cathedral 
at Winchester. He felt under great obliga- 
tions to Godwin, to whose instrumentality he 
was wholly indebted for this sudden and most 
brilliant change in his fortunes; and partly im- 
pelled by this feeling of giatitude, and partly 



Zbb Alfred the Great. [A.D. 1041 

Edward marries Edith. Godwin's difficulties 

allured by Edith's extraordinary charms, he pro- 
posed to make Edith his wife. Godwin made 
no objection. In fact, his enemies say that '.e 
made a positive stipulation for this match be- 
fore allowing the measures for Edward's eleva- 
tion to the throne to proceed too far. However 
this may be, Godwin found himself, after Ed 
ward's accession, raised to the highest pitch of 
honor and power. From being a young herds- 
man's son, driving the cows to pasture in a 
wood, he had become the prime minister, as it 
were, of the whole realm, his four sons being 
great commanding generals in the army, and 
his daughter the queen. 

The current of life did not flow smoothly with 
him, after all. We can not here describe the 
various difficulties in which he became involved 
with the king on account of the Normans, who 
were continually coming over from the Conti- 
nent to join Edward's court, and whose coming 
and growing influence strongly awakened the 
jealousy of th ! E owlish people. Some narra- 
tion of these events wi/i more properly precede 
the history of William the Conqueror. We ac- 
cordingly close this story of Godwin here by 
giving the circumstances of his death, as related 
by the historians of the time. The readers of 



A.JD 1041.] The Sequel. 261 

Story of Godwin's death. Hi* protestation* of innocence 

this narrative will, of course, exercise severally 
their own discretion in determining how fai 
they will believe the story to be true. 

The story is, that one day he was seated at 
Edward's table, at some sort of entertainment, 
when one of his attendants, who was bringing 
in a goblet of wine, tripped one of his feet, but 
contrived to save himself by dexterously bringing 
up the other in such a manner as to cause some 
amusement to the guests ; Godwin said, refer- 
ring to the man's feet, that one brother saved 
the other. " Yes," said the king, " brothers 
have need of brothers' aid. Would to God that 
mine were still alive." In saying this he di- 
rected a meaning glance toward Godwin, which 
seemed to insinuate, as, in fact, the king had 
sometimes done before, that Godwin had had 
some agency in young Alfreds death. Godwin 
was displeased. He reproached the king with 
the unreasonableness of nis surmises, and sol- 
emnly declared that he wag wholly innocent of 
all participation in that crime. He imprecated 
the curse of God upon his head if this declara- 
tion was not true, wishing that the next mouth- 
ful of bread that he should eat might choke him 
if he had contributed in any way, directly or 
indirectly, to Alfred's unhappy end. 80 saving. 



270 Alfred the Great. [A.D. 1041 



Godwin's death. His boh» 

he put the bread into his mouth, and in the act 
of swallowing it he was seized with a paroxism 
of coughing and suffocation. The attendants 
fastened to his relief, the guests rose in terror 
md confusion. Godwin was borne away by 
two of his sons, and laid on his bed in convul- 
sions. He survived the immediate injury, but 
after lingering live days he died. 

Edward continued to reign in prosperity long 
after this event, and he employed the sons of 
Godwin as long as he lived in the most honor- 
able stations of publio service. In faot, wheE 
De died, he named one of them as his suocessoj 
to the throne 



The En*. 



) 



■J